Accidents: March 2018

 - March 4, 2018, 9:00 AM

Preliminary Reports

 Gulfstream Captain Killed By Cabin Door

Gulfstream G150, Jan. 4, 2018, Kittilä, Finland—The German captain of an Austrian-registered Gulfstream G150 was killed opening the cabin door after completing his preflight inspection. The Kittilä airport, Finland’s fourth busiest, is located north of the Arctic Circle, and the airplane’s auxiliary power unit was reportedly operating to provide heat for the flight attendant. Cabin pressurization had apparently also been activated, causing the door to blow open violently when unlatched. There were no other injuries.  Aircraft damage was limited to the door and its frame and described as “minor.”

Pilots Seized After Caravan Crash in South Sudan 

Cessna 208B, Jan. 7, 2018, Akobo, South Sudan—Two Kenyan pilots were taken captive by South Sudanese rebels after their Cessna Caravan crashed on takeoff. The flight was attempting to return members of a South Sudanese non-governmental organization (NGO) to Juba, the national capital, but failed to clear the airport fence. The pilots and passengers suffered only minor injuries. One woman on the ground was killed, according to the Kenyan press. 

Members of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition released the NGO staff but held the pilots, demanding “compensation” of nearly $200,000 for the death and property damage. A government spokesman decried this demand as “ransom ..beyond any normal compensation.” At press time several weeks of negotiations involving the Kenyan ambassador, the UN mission, and the aircraft’s operator had yet to resolve the crisis.

Initial accounts suggested that 18 passengers were on board the 11-seat airplane, but more recent reports revised that number to nine.  

Boeing 737 Written Off After Landing Excursion

Boeing 737-82R, Jan. 13, 2018, Trabzon, Turkey—A Pegasus Airlines 737 was damaged beyond repair after sliding off the left side of Runway 11 of the Trabzon Airport during its landing roll. No injuries were reported to any of the six crewmembers or 162 passengers, all of whom evacuated through the rear exits. Photographs of the airplane perched nose-down on a steep embankment just above the shore of the Black Sea were widely circulated afterwards. “Icy mud” on the slope was credited with bringing the sliding aircraft to a stop.

Flight 8622 flew a straight-in approach at the end of its scheduled 90-minute trip from Ankara. Reported weather conditions included calm winds and light rain. Radar track data suggests that the airplane failed to decelerate after landing and was still travelling at 110 knots in the last third of the 8,661-foot runway. Investigators have not confirmed the pilot’s account of an uncommanded increase in thrust in the right engine has not been confirmed.   

Midair in Germany Kills Four

Eurocopter EC135P2 and Piper PA-28RT-201T, Jan. 23, 2018, Philippsburg, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany—Two pilots on each aircraft were killed when an EMS helicopter collided with a single-engine airplane in the vicinity of the Philippsburg nuclear power plant. Both aircraft were on training flights in early afternoon weather described as clear. 

The helicopter was operated by DRF Luftrettung, Germany’s civil air rescue service. The Swiss-registered airplane, a Turbo Arrow IV, was operated by a flight school in Basel and was en route from Basel to Speyer. The Speyer control tower reportedly advised the Piper’s pilot that the helicopter was operating in the area.

No injuries to anyone on the ground or damage to the nuclear facility were reported.

Cell Phone Charger Ignites Cabin Fire in Aeroflot A320

Airbus A320-214, Jan. 31, 2018, Volgograd, Russia—An upholstery fire that broke out just after landing was caused by an overheating cellphone charger, according to preliminary accounts. Aeroflot SU1182, a scheduled flight from Moscow to Volgograd, had just touched down when passengers noticed smoke and then flames emanating from a seat in the cabin. Cellphone footage posted to the Internet showed them extinguishing the fire with bottles of water. Most remained calm, though a few evacuated using the emergency slides. No injuries were reported.  

Final Reports 

Pilot Inexperience, Unstable Approach Cited in Fatal MU-2B Crash

Mitsubishi MU-2B-60, March 29, 2016, Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec—The accident was the result of poor energy management during an unstable instrument approach caused by the pilot’s lack of make-and-model experience, according to the final report issued by Canada's Transportation Safety Board. All seven on board died when the twin-engine turboprop crashed 1.4 nm short of its destination airport in the sparsely populated archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. High winds, low ceilings, and the high-performance qualities that have made the MU-2B subject to stringent model-specific training and currency requirements contributed to the accident sequence. 

The flight departed from the Montreal/St. Hubert Airport at 10:31 a.m. with a filed alternate of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The CVR captured the airline transport-rated pilot briefing the GPS approach to Runway 07 with his front-seat passenger, a commercial pilot and flight instructor with no prior MU-2B experience.  He delayed descent from FL 210 to save fuel, then began descending at just 800 fpm instead of his planned 1,500 fpm. The descent rate subsequently reached 2,500 fpm, but the airplane crossed the initial approach fix (9.7 nm from the runway threshold) 1,500 feet high and 100 knots faster than its recommended approach speed, overshooting the final approach course before correcting.

It crossed the final approach fix nearly 800 feet high and 50 knots fast as the pilot made increasingly aggressive attempts to lose altitude and slow the airplane. At 600 feet above the ground it was less than five knots above stall speed but still descending at 1,500 fpm. “The pilot rapidly advanced the power levers to their full forward position,” causing the airplane to roll 70 degrees to the right. He was able to level the wings at 150 feet, too low to recover the aircraft.  

A safety evaluation of the MU-2B led the U.S. FAA to issue Special Federal Aviation Regulation No. 108, which imposes specific experience and currency requirements to operate or teach in the airplane. Unlike most other U.S.- and European-made airplanes, its engines turn counterclockwise, giving it a tendency to roll right when most pilots would expect it to turn left. 

The 2,500-hour pilot had completed the requisite training but flown just 125 hours in the MU-2B, 100 of them under the supervision of SFAR 108-qualified instructors.  The TSB concluded that he lacked the proficiency necessary to make the flight under that day’s conditions, and that his inadequate make-and-model experience led to “task saturation” in which immediate demands absorbed his attention at the expense of longer-term planning. Despite the rushed descent and a weather report including 24-knot gusts and ceilings more than 400 feet below approach minimums, the pilot never discussed performing a missed approach.

In addition to the two pilots, the casualties included former Canadian Transport Minister Jean Lapierre, his sister and two brothers, and his wife.

Altimeter Miscommunication Leads to Russian Approach Accident

British Aerospace BAe-125-800B, June 5, 2016, Neryungri Airport, Russia—The flight crew’s misunderstanding of ATC’s altimeter setting led the Russian-registered corporate jet to drop below its intended approach path, eventually hitting trees 18 km (10 nm) from the runway threshold. The crew was able to maintain control, climb away from the ground, and make a safe landing on Runway 08 of the Neryungri Airport. There were no injuries to the three crewmembers or five passengers.

During initial descent on a flight from the Tyumen-Roschino International Airport, the crew was advised that QFE (field elevation) pressure at the destination airport, elevation 857 meters, was 685 mm Hg, and that QNH (sea-level pressure) was 1012 hPa.  The crew read back, “I understand 685... is 1012 hectoPascals, is that correct?”  ATC’s response was, “QNH 1012, for information the height of the threshold 08 is 857 meters.”

Rather than converting 685 mm Hg to 913 hectoPascals, the crew interpreted this as a local altimeter setting of 1012 hPa, and the jet hit trees 17 seconds after the ground proximity warning system began calling, “Pull up!” Investigators later determined that the flight crew did not have the correct frequency for the Neryungri Airport ATISand was unaware of the correct procedures for requesting local barometric pressure in hectoPascals. The report also notes ATC’s failure to detect the confusion or monitor the jet’s approach path. 

Aircraft damage was limited to the wings’ leading edge and winglets, the number-two engine cowling, and the flaps and right-hand horizontal stabilizer.

Main Rotor Damage Linked to Missing Cable

McDonnell-Douglas 369E, Oct. 4, 2016, Waimea, Hawaii—Damage to the main rotor system that forced an emergency landing was caused by an unsecured lift cable stowed inside the helicopter, according to the NTSB's final report on the accident. Following the completion of external load operations, the pilot had jettisoned the 20-foot cable, which ground workers then recovered and placed in the rear of the cabin but did not tie down. The helicopter was being operated without its cabin doors.

As the helicopter was climbing through 75 feet at an airspeed of between 20 and 25 knots, the pilot felt “a significant vertical vibration” and noticed “a substantial blade spread” in the main rotor track. He made a a successful emergency landing, after whihc about nine inches was found to be missing from the tip of one main rotor blade. That damage and scuff marks on two of the four other blades were consistent with their having struck a metallic object that was not recovered at the scene. The lift cable was not in the wreckage and could not be located.

There were no injuries to the pilot or two ground crewmen on board. Impact damage to the helicopter included the fuselage and instrument panel, tail rotor, tailboom, and horizontal and vertical stabilizers.