NTSB: Pilot Error Caused Aeromed Citation Crash

 - October 15, 2009, 12:18 PM

In a final report released yesterday, the NTSB listed crew mismanagement of an abnormal flight situation and the pilots’ failure to control airspeed and prioritize control of the airplane as probable causes of the fatal crash of an aeromed Cessna Citation 550 into Lake Michigan on June 4, 2007. The light twinjet (N550BP), operated by Marlin Air on an organ-transport flight under Part 135 rules, crashed at about 4 p.m. CST shortly after departing from General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. The two pilots and four passengers aboard were killed, and the airplane was destroyed. Evidence indicated that the two most likely scenarios that could have initiated the accident chain were either a runaway trim or the inadvertent engagement of the autopilot (rather than the yaw damper) at takeoff. The Board said the event would have been controllable, if the captain had not allowed the airspeed and resulting control forces to increase while he tried to troubleshoot the problem. With a reduced airspeed, “The pilots should have been able to maintain control of the airplane long enough to either successfully troubleshoot and resolve the problem or return safely to the airport.” Contributing to the accident were Marlin Air’s operational safety deficiencies, including inadequate checkrides by the company’s chief pilot/check airman, and the FAA’s failure to detect and correct those deficiencies.