Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fire In Front

In a fire scenario, aircraft control can be lost at any moment

At 5:47:02, the controller radioed that FXE was 24 miles away, and asked the pilot if he still wanted to try to continue to FXE. The pilot advised the controller that he was going to try to continue FXE, and about 40 seconds later, added that he wanted a "visual straight to the runway." Radar data indicated that the airplane was at an altitude of 3,400 feet.

At 5:48:12, the controller directed a heading of "one one zero...vectors straight in for runway eight" at FXE for a visual approach. Radar data indicated the airplane was at 3,300 feet. The controller then advised the pilot that he was going to keep him at 3,000 feet; just in case he had another problem, he would be able to glide to the airport. The pilot acknowledged.

At 5:49:08, the controller advised the pilot that if he felt comfortable, the controller would switch the pilot to a discreet frequency so that he could be worked by "just one" controller, "Can you do that?" When the pilot acknowledged with the airplane's call sign, the controller provided him the new frequency, and stated that the new controller "knows the situation."

At 5:49:40, the new controller acknowledged the pilot's heading, and informed the pilot that "Boca (Boca Raton, Fla.,) is about the same distance, so whichever one you like; twelve o'clock and 25 for executive."

At 5:49:52, the pilot advised the controller that "we're getting more smoke in the cockpit, we're thinking we might have to land on runway (unintelligible) highway two seven here." Radar data indicated the airplane was at an altitude of 2,900 feet.

The controller acknowledged the pilot's transmission and requested confirmation of the pilot's decision to land on highway 27, to which the pilot responded, "Yes, yes." The controller then requested the number of souls on board the airplane. Radar data indicated the airplane was at an altitude of 2,700 feet.

At 5:50:31, the pilot radioed, "We're on fire, we're on fire." There were no further transmissions from the pilot.

A Florida Wildlife Conservation officer told investigators he saw the airplane to the north about 75 feet above power transmissions lines about 1⁄2 mile in front of him. The nose of the airplane was approximately 20 degrees below the horizon, and the airplane was in a 40-degree left bank. The airplane was trailing black smoke, extending back about 100 yards. Visible flames could be seen on top of the engine cowling, extending back toward the cockpit about three feet. The flames closest to the cowling were blue, and the flames toward the cockpit were orange. The trailing black smoke was "like the exhaust of an 18-wheel diesel truck." The bank angle continued to increase and the nose continued to lower until the airplane collided with the ground in a near-vertical attitude.


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