As I prepared to write this column the television and radio news programs were reporting on the recent spate of business aviation accidents. One of the widely reported accidents that caused considerable concern at the NTSB was the November 28 crash of the Challenger 601 in Montrose, Colo. In this accident the NTSB is investigating airplane performance issues, including the possibility of upper-surface wing ice contamination.
Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, Naches, Wash., Oct. 7, 2007–The commercial pilot and nine passengers died when the Caravan crashed in the mountains near Naches, at 7:59 p.m. No flight plan was filed for the flight from Star, Idaho, to Shelton, Wash., and the pilot did not obtain a weather briefing. There was an airmet for icing, low-level turbulence and mountain obscuration.
MITSUBISHI MU-2, LEWISTON, IDAHO, FEB. 11, 2000–“The pilot failed to follow the flight manual procedures and did not engage the continuous ignition system, resulting in both engines flaming out when ice blocked the air induction system.
KING AIR B-200, PIQUA, OHIO, AUG. 24, 2001–The chief pilot for the Hartzell Propeller Co. waited for a chartered King Air to shoot the approach into the Piqua Airport after the turboprop circled while waiting for fog to dissipate. As he heard the airplane on final approach, the Hartzell pilot heard the “terrible sound of impact” followed by silence. The King Air’s ATP-rated pilot died in the crash.
Mitsubishi MU-2B-40, Bunnell, Fla., Aug. 25, 2006–The NTSB determined that the crash of the MU-2 resulted from an inadvertent encounter with thunderstorms. The commercial pilot, cruising at FL280, had received a sigmet about convective activity. His onboard weather radar was working, and Jacksonville Center was equipped with Nexrad-derived weather displays, which indicated weak to moderate echoes above FL240.
The National Weather Service has awarded a team led by L-3 Enterprise IT Solutions a $43 million contract to upgrade Nexrad radar sites. Consisting of 171 weather radars positioned across the U.S. and a handful overseas, the sites collect data on local weather phenomena, which are then used to predict convective activity.
Comments are due May 10 on a draft advisory circular on icing certification that is intended to update a 32-year-old document. The FAA said new AC 20-173A will provide a “uniform and modern” means for showing compliance with regulations for ice-protection methods. For more information, contact the FAA at (202) 267-9796.
Some pilots don’t look forward to flying in bad weather, but helicopter pilot and TV news reporter Johnny Rowlands actually fires up his Bell JetRanger and goes after the very worst in bad weather. Twice in May, on the 4th and 8th, Rowlands used “NewsChopper 9,” KMBC-TV’s Bell JetRanger, to track tornadoes that were savaging the Kansas City area, destroying property and killing people.
Canada’s CMC Electronics, the former Canadian Marconi, reported it has completed a second set of flight trials of its enhanced vision system, which uses a small infrared camera to capture a real-world view outside and ahead of the airplane and overlay it on a HUD.
Air traffic at West Palm Beach Airport (PBI), Fla., came to a screeching halt for about an hour on the morning of April 12 due to a lightning strike, but it wasn’t an airplane that was hit. The primary runway at PBI was out of service for about an hour when a bolt of lightning left what airport officials described as a “pothole” on 10,000-foot-long Runway 9L/27R.