Accidents: February 2013
Preliminary Report: Turboprop Breaks Up over Texas
Hawker Beechcraft King Air E90, Armstrong County, Texas, Dec. 14, 2012–The commercial pilot and sole passenger died in the crash of a King Air after the aircraft broke up in flight at approximately 6 p.m. local time. The aircraft was registered to O’Neal Aviation of Colorado Springs but was being operated by a private individual. Operating on an IFR flight plan between Amarillo (AMA) and Fort Worth Meacham Field (FTW), the King Air was at FL210 when the pilot asked Albuquerque Center for permission to deviate around weather. The pilot turned north and shortly after stopped responding to ATC calls.
The Texas Department of Public Safety located the airplane wreckage about 20 miles south of AMA on open, rolling hill ranch land. The airplane’s outer wing sections, engines, elevators and vertical and horizontal stabilizers were separated from the fuselage and located in several directions from the main wreckage, at distances up to half a mile.
Preliminary Report: Turboprop Accident in Montana Claims Two Lives
Hawker Beechcraft King Air 100, Libby, Mont., Dec. 18, 2012–The Part 91 King Air was destroyed around midnight local time when it collided with terrain surrounding Libby Airport (S59) during a visual approach conducted after the pilot reported the field in sight from seven miles south of the airport. The pilot and one passenger were killed. The nearest official weather facility to Libby (Sandpoint, Idaho, 46 miles to the west) was reporting VFR weather at the time of the accident.
A Libby law enforcement officer reported hearing an aircraft pass over the town, north of the airport, and then turn south toward S59. The police officer reported fog near the town but said the airport was clear. He also said the airport’s rotating beacon was operating, but that he did not recall seeing the runway lights. No distress call was heard. Aircraft debris was found strewn over a wide path both left and right of the runway centerline short of the runway.
Preliminary Report: Customs Service Jet Damaged
Cessna Citation 550, Oklahoma City (OKC), Okla., Dec. 21, 2012–The nose landing gear of a Cessna Citation II owned and operated by the U.S. Customs Service collapsed on landing on Runway 17L at Oklahoma City Wiley Post Airport. The Citation–operating under Part 91 at the time of the accident–suffered substantial damage to the wing and fuselage. Reported weather at the time of the accident included light wind from the south, high cloud and good visibility. The pilot was not injured in the accident. The first officer suffered minor injuries.
Preliminary Report: Helicopter Crash in Peru Kills Seven
Boeing Vertol 234 Chinook, Pucallpa, Peru, Jan. 7, 2013–Columbia Helicopters grounded all six of its remaining Chinook helicopters after a seventh crashed into the Peruvian jungle near Pucallpa. All seven crewmembers aboard the Chinook were killed in the accident at approximately 3 p.m. local time, just five minutes after takeoff. The helicopter had been contracted by a Canadian energy exploration company and was ferrying a sling load of drilling rig parts when witnesses saw smoke begin pouring from the helicopter. Columbia expected the fleet would be grounded for approximately three days to allow time for thorough inspections of each helicopter.
Preliminary Report: Helicopter Makes Hard Landing Following Power Loss
Eurocopter EC130B4, Seminole, Okla., Jan. 2, 2013–The commercial pilot and three crewmembers were seriously injured when their EC130 landed hard after a loss of engine power and autorotation a few minutes after takeoff from Seminole Regional Airport (SRE), Okla. at approximately 12:45 p.m. local time. The helicopter, operated by Air Methods on a positioning flight to a hospital in Okemah, sustained substantial damage but came to rest in an upright position. Visual conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
Preliminary Report: Jet Damaged in Upset Recovery
Cessna Citation 501, Grand Forks, N.D., Dec. 7, 2012–A Citation 501 was substantially damaged at approximately 10:34 p.m. local time during recovery from an in-flight upset. None of the six people on board was injured. The aircraft, registered to Makaira Aircraft Sales, had departed Detroit Lakes Airport (DTL), Minn., just a few minutes before on a Part 91 IFR flight to Bessemer, Ala. The aircraft was climbing through 7,000 feet with the autopilot engaged when the pilots reported the PIC’s attitude indicator had become inoperative. They said the autopilot then rolled the aircraft into an unusual attitude. The PIC disengaged the autopilot and recovered the aircraft to level flight, primarily by referencing the turn needle and directional gyro. Aerodynamic forces sustained during the recovery substantially damaged both wings. The pilots diverted to Grand Forks International Airport (GFK), N.D., and landed without further incident.
Preliminary Report: EMS Accident Kills Three
Eurocopter BK117, Compton, Ill., Dec. 11, 2012–A Eurocopter BK117 operated as an Air Methods emergency medical service (EMS) flight crashed into a farmer’s field near Compton, Ill., at about 8 p.m. The three people on board–the pilot and two flight nurses–were killed. The crash occurred shortly after the pilot radioed he was returning to base due to poor weather in an area where light snow had been reported. The helicopter was registered to Rockford Memorial Hospital, 90 miles northwest of Chicago.
Final Report: Twin Turboprop Experienced Dual Engine Failure
Casa C-212, Saskatoon, Canada, April 1, 2011–At approximately 6:14 p.m. local time, a Casa C-212 operated on a survey flight by Fugro Aviation Canada crashed adjacent to a road near Saskatoon/Diefenbaker International Airport (CYXE) after both engines failed. The right engine quit first, followed a few minutes later by the left. The crew dealt with the first engine shutdown and was en route to Saskatoon when the left engine stopped 3.5 nm east of the airport. The aircraft was destroyed in the subsequent forced landing when it struck a concrete wall near the highway. The captain was not injured; the first officer received serious injuries and the lone passenger, the survey equipment operator, was killed in the accident.
In its final report, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) reported the aircraft had been aloft for approximately three hours when the first engine failed. At the time, the survey aircraft was trailing two survey probes attached by cables. The TSB said the circumstances under which the right engine stopped operating, smoothly spooling down, suggested fuel starvation. The first officer was the pilot flying and continued in that role, calling out the memory items on the checklist. The first officer actually had more time flying the Casa than did the captain. The two pilots did not cut the probes loose; had they done so, experts later said, the airplane might have performed slightly better on its remaining (left) engine. To offer slightly better single-engine performance, the flying pilot also lifted the right wing about five degrees.
The Board found that the right engine lost power when the intermediate spur gear on the torque sensor shaft failed, resulting in loss of drive to the high-pressure engine-driven fuel pump, depriving the right engine of fuel. Compounding this problem, foreign object debris (FOD) in the ejector pump nozzle compromised the ability of the left-hand number-two (fuel) ejector pump to deliver fuel to the Casa’s collector tank. It is likely, according to the TSB report, that when the fuel level in the left collector tank decreased, the left fuel level warning light illuminated but the crew, already handling other portions of the emergency, did not notice it. Neither the pilot flying nor the captain asked for the low-level fuel checklist. Consequently, the fuel cross-feed valve remained closed and fuel from only the left wing was being supplied to the left engine. As a result of the first officer’s control inputs, the left wing was banked down, exacerbating the low fuel issue. The left engine also failed as a result of fuel starvation.
Final Report: VFR Helicopter Pilot Crashed After Encountering IFR Weather
Bell 206B, near Drayton Valley Industrial Airport (CER3), Alberta, Canada, Oct. 5, 2011–The VFR-only pilot of a Bell 206B lost control of the helicopter and crashed approximately one mile south of Drayton Valley Airport at about 6 p.m. local time when he became disoriented after entering a cloud layer. The sole-occupant pilot was killed in the accident. The helicopter had departed nearby Whitecourt Airport on the afternoon of the accident nearly an hour after official sunset. The operator of the helicopter, Rotorworks, was certified under Canadian Air Regulations (CAR) for day VFR operations only.
The pilot held a commercial helicopter pilot certificate and was endorsed on three helicopter types, for daylight VFR flying only. As of Oct. 5, 2011, the pilot had accumulated approximately 390 hours of flight time, with 70 hours on the accident aircraft type, of which 43 hours were dual flight time and 27 hours were solo flight time. The pilot did not hold an instrument rating.
Rotorworks uses a pilot self-dispatch system, where the pilot-in-command of any flight is authorized to “make decisions as to initiation, continuation, delay, diversion or rerouting of the flight when conditions are such that operational decisions are necessary.” The pilot had attended a company pilot decision-making course and training focused on obtaining approval for flight in reduced visibility. The CARs and the company require pilots to log 500 hours of flying time before they can operate in reduced visibility. The pilot of the accident aircraft would not have been eligible to operate in these conditions. Rotorworks’ company manual also says, “In uncontrolled airspace below 1,000 feet agl the pilot shall have a flight visibility of not less than 1 mile (unless otherwise authorized in the air operator certificate) and [fly] clear of cloud. The airspeed must be reduced to an airspeed that will allow the PIC to be able to see other air traffic or obstructions in time to avoid a collision.”
On the day of the accident, the pilot departed Whitecourt Airport with approximately 50 U.S. gallons of fuel (two hours’ flying time) for the one-hour flight. The pilot checked and discussed the poor weather outlook for Drayton with the chief pilot/owner before departure. The forecasts called for ceilings of 400 to 800 feet and visibility of 0.5 to two statute miles in fog and mist. Patchy moderate mixed icing conditions were also forecast between 7,500 and 18,000 feet. They agreed on routings to avoid the worst weather and a plan to turn around should it deteriorate further.
Just 25 nm south of Whitecourt, the pilot made a cellphone call to a friend in Drayton Valley, indicating that the flight was encountering bad weather. The pilot reported being on top of the clouds at 7,000 feet with no holes beneath. At 6:03 p.m. and 6:07 p.m. the pilot made two more calls indicating he was slowing the aircraft to 20 knots forward speed and beginning a descent through the clouds near Drayton. The helicopter’s wreckage was found in a field approximately 1.3 nm south of CER3 airport.
The pilot made no attempt to call Edmonton Center for help, nor did he attempt to return to Whitecourt, where the weather was better. During the descent through cloud, the pilot was apparently able to keep the helicopter level, but lost awareness of the aircraft’s height above ground, and did not arrest the rate of descent before hitting terrain. Finally, the pilot was not carrying a helmet, nor was he wearing the required shoulder harnesses during the descent.