Premature Descent Claims Freighter
Dassault Falcon 20 Fanjet, Oct. 5, 2021, Thomson, Georgia - The 1967 Falcon 20 struck 150-foot-tall pine trees almost a mile from the threshold during an instrument approach to the Thomson-McDuffie County Airport (HQU) and hit the ground 880 feet past the initial point of impact, killing both pilots and destroying the airplane. The Part 135 on-demand cargo flight was the crew’s second scheduled leg. It departed from the Lubbock (Texas) Preston Smith International Airport after a two-hour, 20-minute wait for the freight to reach the airport.
The Atlanta ARTCC coordinated the last 40 minutes of the flight, during which the crew requested notams regarding the ILS approach to HQU’s Runway 10. Both the localizer and glideslope were listed as out of service, but the notam for the localizer outage would not become effective until after their expected arrival. The controller advised the pilots accordingly, and they subsequently requested and were cleared for the "ILS localizer" approach to Runway 10 with instructions to cross the CEDAR initial approach fix at or above 3,000 feet msl. The controller also advised the crew that their readback came through on the emergency frequency of 121.5 MHz rather than the Center frequency.
FAA ADS-B data showed that the Falcon actually crossed the CEDAR initial approach fix at 2,500 feet and continued descending. About one minute later, the crew cancelled IFR; no further communications were received from the flight. Airport surveillance footage showed its landing lights in a steady descent on a constant heading for about two minutes beginning at 5:42 a.m. In the last 25 seconds of the recording, however, it briefly turned right, then left. Its descent rate increased before the landing lights disappeared from view. The last ADS-B return came 1.36 nm southwest of the Runway 10 threshold at 800 feet msl.
Small aircraft fragments were found in a pine forest just past the initial point of contact. Both ailerons, pieces of both wings, the left engine, and the left main and nose landing gear were recovered from a second copse of trees. The fuselage, right wing, and right engine were found in an open field 0.7 miles from the threshold. The landing gear was down and the flaps extended to a full 40 degrees. There was no evidence of fire.
Both pilots were type-rated in the accident make and model. The captain had about 12,000 hours total time and the first officer 11,000 hours of total flight experience; both had more than 1,000 hours in type. Prevailing weather included seven miles visibility and scattered clouds at 1,200 feet with an overcast layer at 9,000 feet. Though not required by regulation, a cockpit voice recorder was present and recovered from the wreckage.
No Injuries in Caravan Emergency Landing
Cessna 208B, Oct. 22, 2021, Juneau, Alaska - The pilot and all five passengers evacuated the aircraft without injury following an emergency landing that collapsed the nose and right main landing gear, causing damage to both wings. The scheduled Part 135 passenger flight was departing from the C intersection of the Juneau Airport’s Runway 08 when it abruptly veered right after reaching rotation speed. The pilot attempted to counter with left rudder, “but the pedal travel felt limited, and the airplane continued to the right toward a float pond that parallels the runway.”
Assessing that there was not enough room to stop short of the pond, the pilot continued the takeoff and maneuvered back towards the runway for an emergency landing. Once the runway was assured, “she pulled the firewall shutoff, fuel shutoff, and moved the master switch to the off position.” The initial examination of the wreckage did not disclose any obvious mechanical anomalies.
Ag Copter Destroyed in Oklahoma Training Upset
Bell 206B, Nov. 28, 2021, Perry, Oklahoma - The pilot and owner was killed and the helicopter destroyed by the post-crash fire after he was unable to recover from an uncommanded left roll at low altitude and airspeed. The pilot’s son, a student pilot being trained in aerial application techniques, was able to escape the burning wreckage but suffered serious injuries.
According to the NTSB’s preliminary report, the pilot was a full-time helicopter air ambulance pilot who also did part-time seasonal work conducting Part 137 aerial application flights. The accident flight began with three circuits in the traffic pattern at the Perry Municipal Airport., followed by passes over a field west of the airport where he demonstrated low-level application maneuvers.
They broke off the maneuvers after seeing a coyote in the field. An uncommanded left roll began while the helicopter was flying about 50 feet above the ground at 25 knots. The pilot tried to counter but the helicopter crashed into the field next to a fence line, igniting a fire that consumed most of the aircraft. Weather conditions included 10 miles visibility and light southerly winds with no indication of turbulence or wind shear.
Quebec CFIT Attributed to “Flat Light” Conditions
Bell 206L-4, Jan. 22, 2020, Lac Saint-Jean, Quebec, Canada - Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) concluded that the lack of visual references under a late afternoon overcast was the principal factor in a search and rescue helicopter’s collision with the frozen surface of Lac Saint-Jean. The pilot, though seriously injured, survived the accident and was able to call dispatch to report the accident. His use of a flight helmet, which the operator’s procedures did not require, and the four-point harness were cited as crucial to his survival.
The accident helicopter was one of two dispatched by the Quebec Service Aérien Gouvermental (SAG) to search for a party of snowmobilers reported missing the day before. Both departed the Montréal/St. Hubert Airport (CYHU) at 7:50, stopping to refuel at La Tuque Aerodrome (CYLQ) before landing adjacent to the search area in the town of Saint Henri-de-Taillon at 10:25.
At 12:30, after nearly an hour of search operations at altitudes below 100 feet in the vicinity of several small islands near La Grande Décharge Lake, the pilot refueled at the Alma Airport (CYTF). After returning to Saint Henri-de-Taillon, it was determined that only one aircraft was needed to continue the search. Because its rear sliding door had proved difficult to close, the accident helicopter was dispatched back to CYHU. It took off at 14:02, approximately two hours before sunset, with a planned fuel stop at CYLQ.
GPS data recorded at two-minute intervals by the aircraft’s satellite tracking system showed that it climbed to an altitude of 305 feet on a track parallel to the eastern shore of the lake, then changed course to the west to avoid a group of islands while continuing to climb. The last data point was recorded 2.4 nm west of the shoreline at the flight’s maximum altitude of 330 feet. The helicopter flew into the surface of the lake 1.34 nm further south about one minute later, at a calculated descent angle of 2.3 degrees. The distribution of the wreckage and the skid marks on the lake’s surface suggested a shallow, high-speed impact consistent with controlled flight into terrain rather than an in-flight loss of control.
On receiving the pilot’s call, the SAG dispatcher alerted the pilot of the second helicopter, still on the ground at Saint-Henri-de-Taillon. After boarding two Sûreté du Québec first responders, they located the wreckage at 14:45 and evacuated the pilot to the hospital in Roberval.
The pilot later told investigators that he thought he was in cruise flight at about 500 feet when he felt a “sudden longitudinal deceleration” and heard the engines surge as the helicopter rolled onto its side. While visibility at the nearest airport was reported as 25 miles, an overcast layer at 1,700 feet obscured the late afternoon sun, creating the soft, diffused illumination known as “flat light.” Simulations depicted in the TSB’s report show that at the accident site’s distance from the lakeshore, the views of the horizon from 50 and 330 feet were indistinguishable. They also noted that while the helicopter was equipped with both radar and conventional altimeters, SAG pilots did not routinely use the radar altimeter’s decision height bug, regarding the audible low-altitude alert as “a potential distraction that could negatively impact flight safety.” The barometric adjustment on the conventional altimeter was set .05 inch too high, causing it to read 50 feet higher than the aircraft’s true altitude.
PC-12 Survives Lightning Strike
Pilatus PC-12-47E, March 3, 2020, Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, France - The airplane was struck by lightning while on approach in instrument conditions with thunderstorms in the vicinity. The pilots made multiple deviations during the approach to avoid storm cells. As the airplane descended through 6,000 feet and just before it exited the clouds, the crew “saw a brief flash of lightning and heard a loud bang.” Engine and propeller instrument indications remained normal, but they requested and received clearance direct to the airport where they landed uneventfully.
Postflight inspection revealed damage to one propeller blade “that the manufacturer had never seen previously in operating conditions” as well as burn damage to the right ventral fin. A subsequent engine inspection found strike-related damage to numerous components including compressor blades, the oil scavenge pump, and elements of the propeller governor and planetary gearbox. The engine and fin were repaired and the propeller overhauled and reinstalled after the damaged blade was replaced.
A further inspection several days later revealed structural damage to the left wing “not related to the lightning strike” that required replacement of the wing. The nature of the damage was more consistent with excessive loading in flight than a hard landing, but the date and time of the overload could not be determined. France’s Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses also concluded that the airplane’s presence itself most likely triggered the electrical discharge.