Business Aircraft Accident Reports: December 2022

 - December 1, 2022, 8:19 AM

Preliminary Reports

Bird Strike Suspected in Helicopter Break-up - Bell 206L-1 Long Ranger, July 9, 2022, Maroota, New South Wales, Australia

The Airstrike Section of the Australian Museum’s Centre for Wildlife Genomics identified a carcass discovered in the wreckage and “residue found on” the helicopter’s main transmission housing as the remains of a wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax), suggesting the possibility that a bird strike caused the helicopter’s midair break-up. The solo pilot was killed when the helicopter crashed just north of Dargle Ridge on a flight from a private helipad in Cattai to a site on private property at St. Albans.

Witness accounts described seeing the helicopter flying straight and level in “clear skies and light winds” before abruptly pitching up and entering a hard right bank with a change in the sound of the main rotor blades. One reported seeing “separation of the main rotor blades…at about the height of Dargle Ridge” before impact. The fuel tank ruptured and a post-impact fire destroyed most of the wreckage. Initial examination of the debris field found that the main rotor blades, main transmission, and aft section of the tail boom had separated in flight.

Loose Cabin Door Causes Depressurization Emergency - Embraer EMB-545, Oct. 3, 2022, Houston, Texas

An apparently secure cabin door became unlatched during the initial climb, leading to the loss of cabin pressurization and “substantial damage” to the fuselage after the door opened in flight. There were no injuries to either pilot or the two passengers on board the Part 91 business trip.

The pilot-in-command (PIC) reported that the co-pilot had closed and secured the cabin door after the passengers boarded. The two pilots verified that there were no messages displayed on the crew alerting system (CAS) both before taxi and again before takeoff. Climbing through 7,000 feet, however, an amber CAS cabin pressurization warning illuminated, quickly followed by a red PAX CABIN DOOR warning.

The PIC turned “and saw that the door handle was sticking straight out.” He attempted to re-stow the door handle but encountered “too much pressure” to do so and returned to his seat. The door opened shortly afterwards, causing “substantial damage” to the door frame and fuselage. The PIC took the controls and returned to Houston’s William P. Hobby International Airport for an uneventful emergency landing.

Six Killed off Coast of Costa Rica - Piaggio P180, Oct. 22, 2022, near Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

The twin-engine turboprop crashed into the Caribbean Sea about 28 km (17 miles) northeast of its destination of Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, killing the Swiss pilot and five German passengers. The latter reportedly included the founder and owner of the Gold’s Gym and McFit gymnasium chains, three members of his family, and his personal trainer. The flight originated from Mexico’s Palenque Airport. Contact with the Juan Santamaria International Airport was lost at about 18:00 local time.

Storms in the area delayed the Costa Rican Coast Guard’s search operations until 05:00 the following morning. The searchers located fragments of wreckage within an hour. Two bodies and various personal items were recovered the same day.

Final Reports

Cause of Houston PD Accident Remains Unresolved - MD Helicopters 369E, May 2, 2020, Houston, Texas

NTSB investigators were unable to determine why the Houston Police Department helicopter experienced an abrupt loss of yaw control during a low-speed right orbit. The pilot suffered serious injuries and the tactical flight officer was killed when their ship crashed into an unoccupied building and then the ground, destroying the aircraft.

Examination of the wreckage "revealed no evidence of preimpact failures of the tail rotor control or drive systems…the helicopter structure, main rotor system, cyclic or collective flight controls, or the engine.”

A performance study concluded that the reported wind conditions and flight track were “not conducive” to any of the known causes of aerodynamic loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE).

The accident occurred during a scene call at about 2:03 local time, about an hour into a flight responding to several other scene calls. The pilot recalled that his normal procedure was to make right orbits to provide the tactical flight officer and forward--looking infrared camera with the clearest view of the scene, maintaining at least 30 knots airspeed.

As they completed their second orbit the pilot felt “a strong vibration” in the controls and the helicopter began rotating rapidly to the right, “spinning like [the] tail was not functioning.” No warning or caution lights illuminated, and he did not hear any warning horns or unusual sounds.

The pilot, who was wearing night vision goggles, responded with the emergency procedure for LTE, lowering collective and applying forward cyclic to gain airspeed and increase airflow over the vertical stabilizer and reducing power to decrease engine torque while looking for possible emergency landing sites. He told investigators that his last memory of the flight was “maneuvering to avoid a building.”

ADS-B data showed that the helicopter entered a tight right turn before its groundspeed increased from 10 to 30 knots. It maintained 30 knots for 5 seconds before slowing to 20 knots, and the right turn continued until the last five seconds of the flight, when the helicopter tracked straight ahead in a rapid descent. Analysis of video footage captured by a witness found that its yaw rate reached 178 degrees per second during the time the helicopter remained visible.

The NTSB’s performance study concluded that before the spin began, the helicopter was flying into a right quartering headwind of about four knots, a situation “not conducive to main rotor disc interference LTE, weathercock stability LTE, or tail rotor vortex ring state LTE.”

Main rotor vortex ring state, also known as “settling with power,” could not be ruled out as having contributed to the descent. However, settling with power originates in a low--airspeed, high-rate descent, inconsistent with the helicopter’s level flight prior to the spin, and generally does not cause a loss of yaw control.

Whiteout Led To Caravan Crash - Cessna 208, March 8, 2022, Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada

A snow squall during a low-altitude VFR flight resulted in the airplane’s striking the frozen surface of Ontario’s Lac Seul, separating the airplane’s nose wheel and left wing but causing only minor injuries to the pilot and the sole passenger. There was no post-impact fire. The accident occurred on the second of the day’s scheduled flights from Ontario’s Sioux Lookout Airport (CYXL) and the seasonal ice runway on Springpole Lake 78 nm to the north-northwest.

The Caravan’s 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter activated automatically, and the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system relayed the signal to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ontario, which was able to dispatch a nearby Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft to the site.

Three search-and-rescue technicians parachuted in within an hour of the accident, and the aircraft occupants were evacuated by a civilian helicopter later that day. Two to three feet of snow on the lake’s surface had apparently cushioned the impact.

The pilot had delayed takeoff while a previous snow squall moved across the field at CYXL. He took off in VFR conditions at 13:01, levelling off at 500-600 feet agl to remain beneath an overcast layer. He described visibility ahead as good when the airplane began crossing the lake, but about halfway across it was enveloped in whiteout conditions and turbulence.

After looking at the left wing for indications of icing, he returned his attention to the flight instruments, saw that the airplane was in a rapid descent, and pulled back on the control panel to arrest it. The airplane struck the ice a few seconds later about 17 nm north-northwest of CYXL.

Weather conditions and road closures delayed recovery of the Caravan wreckage for five days. Traces of ice were found on portions of the wings’ leading edges that snow cover had protected from sun and wind exposure, but there were no indications of significant ice accumulation either at the scene or in photographs taken shortly after the crash.

The 1,315-hour commercial pilot had 126 hours in type and held a Group 1 instrument rating, but had not exercised instrument privileges since at least September 2021.

Rough Runway Contributed To Departure Stall - Beech B200, May 28, 2022, Lynedoch Private Airfield, Western Cape, South Africa

An “uneven surface” encountered during the takeoff roll and the pilot-in-command’s overreaction to the resulting bounces caused the King Air to lift off prematurely in an excessively nose-high attitude with inadequate airspeed, precipitating a low--altitude stall. Both pilots and both passengers survived the airplane’s subsequent impact with a tree and an antelope, which was killed.

The pilot reported having held the brakes and set engine power to 1,800 ft-lbs of torque before beginning the takeoff roll on the one-kilometer (3,281-foot) private runway. At about the time of his 60-knot callout, “the aircraft rolled onto an uneven surface, which caused the aircraft to bounce.”

The pilot responded by applying back pressure to prevent the nose gear from slamming back into the ground. The King Air touched down on its mains and then bounced again, lifting off in a nose-high attitude before settling back onto the runway and veering off the left side. Full right rudder did not correct the yaw and the pilot did not relax the back pressure, attempting to continue the takeoff rather than touch down off the runway. A second premature liftoff resulted in the stall and the aircraft skidded for some 350 meters (1,150 feet), hitting the tree and the buck before coming to rest.