Sunday, February 1, 2004
Gone With The Wind
Crosswinds can be deadly, even for the most experienced pilot
With apologies to Margaret Mitchell, most pilots would welcome the opportunity to be “gone with the wind” and let Mother Nature help keep a lid on upwardly creeping fuel costs. Just a few days ago, a friend of mine found that favorable winds aloft coupled with a direct-to-destination IFR routing cut more than a half-hour off the usual trip home to New York after a business meeting in Ohio. Even better, there was an absence of shear and turbulence, making for a smooth, quick ride. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. From time to time, National Transportation Safety Board investigators have to look at situations in which the capabilities of the pilot and/or the aircraft were exceeded by wind conditions.
On September 15, 2002, at approximately 10:35 a.m., a Cessna T-R182 crashed at Joslin Field in Twin Falls, Idaho. The aircraft collided with a fuel truck that was parked at a marshalling area on the airport. The commercial pilot had attempted a go-around following an approach to runway 12. The pilot and two passengers sustained fatal injuries as a result of the crash and post-impact explosion. Visual meteorological conditions existed and the pilot was on an active VFR flight plan. The personal Part-91 flight had originated from Kalispell, Mont., at approximately 8:00 a.m. The airplane was making a fuel stop at Twin Falls on its way to Sacramento Executive Airport.
The pilot contacted the Great Falls Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) twice on the day before the accident, requesting weather information for the flight. At 7:03 on the morning of the accident, he contacted Great Falls AFSS again and received a weather briefing for the leg to Twin Falls and then on to Sacramento. The pilot was advised of the en-route weather, including a report of winds at Twin Falls from 170 degrees at 16 knots.
The pilot contacted the Twin Falls Air Traffic Control Tower when he was about 13 nautical miles north of the field. The tower controller advised that winds were favoring runway 12, from 150 degrees magnetic at 20 knots, and instructed the pilot to contact the tower when three miles north of the field.
About four minutes later, the pilot reported three miles north of the airport and the tower controller cleared the pilot to land on runway 12. There were no further communications to or from the aircraft.
The tower controller reported to investigators, “It appeared the pilot was having problems with the winds and was attempting to go around...” and “...that when he tried to go around, the aircraft kept going to the left....”
A line fueler with a local FBO reported seeing the aircraft in a continuously right wing-low attitude until the time of the impact with the fuel truck. He indicated that the angle of bank decreased periodically, but that the aircraft was always in a right wing-low attitude. Additionally, the fueler reported “...when it looked as if he was pulling up, he was only about five feet off the ground and about 10, 20 feet away from the fuel truck....” He also remarked that the winds on the day of the accident weren’t uncommon for Twin Falls and he estimated the wind between 20 and 25 knots out of the south-southeast.
The pilot held a commercial certificate with airplane single-engine land and helicopter ratings and an instrument rating for both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. His second-class FAA medical was current with the restriction that he “must wear corrective lenses and possess glasses for near and interim vision.”
No pilot logs were discovered or made available to the investigative team. Based upon his last Federal Aviation medical application, it was estimated that the pilot had 2,200 hours of flight time.
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