Tail contamination due to accumulated snow/icing, excessive gross weight, and out-of-limit center of gravity are among the factors being eyed by the investigators of the Nov. 30, 2019, fatal crash of a Pilatus PC-12, according to a newly released NTSB factual report. The turboprop single crashed less than two minutes after taking off from South Dakota’s Chamberlain Municipal Airport in a snowstorm, killing the pilot and eight passengers and seriously injuring three.
The airplane was configured with 10 total seats, but 12 people were on board. An estimated weight-and-balance calculation indicated that the airplane was some 107 pounds over maximum gross weight and that the center of gravity was 3.99 to 5.49 inches beyond the aft limit.
While the rest of the passengers went hunting, the pilot and a passenger stayed back to remove the snow and ice that had collected on the aircraft overnight. The pilot and passenger took a ladder from the lodge and stopped at a hardware store to buy isopropyl alcohol. They worked for about three hours to clear accumulated snow and ice, but the ladder was not tall enough to reach the top of the tailplane.
The pilot stated that they “needed to get home,” that the airplane was “98 percent good,” and “the remaining ice would come off during takeoff.” As the aircraft began to taxi for takeoff, photos and videos revealed accrued precipitation, presumably snow, on the upper surface of the horizontal stabilizer and on the vertical stabilizer, with icicles hanging from the horizontal stabilizer bullet fairing.
After several admonitions from the airport manager, the pilot responded, “Uh, we’re gonna be just fine.” Seconds after taking off and before impact, repeated warnings from the stall warning and stick pusher system could be heard on the CVR.