Communications Lost Soon after Ill-fated PC-12 Departed

 - March 17, 2023, 10:57 AM
An NTSB preliminary report says the crew of the Pilatus PC-12 that broke up in flight on February 24 made their last radio call 8 minutes after takeoff. (Photo: NTSB)

The crew of the Guardian Flight air ambulance Pilatus PC-12 that broke up in flight near Stagecoach, Nevada, on February 24 made their last radio call at approximately 9:08 p.m. at 15,400 feet, according to a newly released NTSB preliminary report. In that communication, the pilot acknowledged an ATC instruction to climb to and maintain FL250 and the caution for light to moderate turbulence. 

Review of ADS-B data showed that the airplane departed Reno-Tahoe Airport at about 9 p.m. on an IFR flight to transport a patient to Salt Lake City. The turboprop single continued on southerly heading until about 9:05 p.m., when it turned left to a southeasterly heading at an altitude of 12,100 feet. As the airplane turned southeast, it climbed to 15,700 feet and then turned northeast.

At 9:11 p.m., three minutes after the final radio communications and as the aircraft reached 18,300 feet, it made a right turn to the southeast for about 47 seconds before climbing to 18,900 feet, making a left turn to north, and climbing to 19,100 feet. Then the aircraft started a descending right turn until 9:14 p.m., when ADS-B contact was lost at 11,000 feet with the aircraft descending.

According to the NTSB, the accident scenario and wreckage sites suggest the aircraft broke up in flight. The debris field extended nearly one mile from the main wreckage, which included the crushed fuselage, left wing, inboard right wing, vertical stabilizer, and rudder.

Pieces of the right right wing were also located nearly three-quarters of a mile from the main wreckage. Two other sections of the right wing and the left horizontal stabilizer were located more than a third of a mile from the main wreckage. The right horizontal stabilizer was located about a half-mile from the main wreckage.

All five persons on the aircraft were killed in the accident—the pilot, flight nurse, patient, paramedic, and a member of the patient's family.