Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hazards Of Extreme Flying


You have to know when you’re too close to crossing the line


The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s continued flight into known thunderstorms resulting in an in-flight breakup. A factor in the accident was the air traffic controller’s failure to issue to the pilot the extreme-weather radar echo intensity information that was displayed on his screen.

The flight crew of Pinnacle Airlines flight 3701 decided to deliberately try some extreme flying by doing something there was no compelling reason to do: going to the airplane’s service ceiling. As a result, the Bombardier CL-600-2B19 crashed into a residential area about 2.5 miles south of Jefferson City Memorial Airport (JEF), Jefferson City, Mo., in October 2004. The airplane was on a repositioning flight from Little Rock, Ark., to Minneapolis, Minn. During the flight, both engines flamed out after a pilot-induced aerodynamic stall and were unable to be restarted. The captain and the first officer were killed, and the airplane was destroyed.

The captain had asked ATC for a climb to 41,000 feet, the airplane’s maximum operating altitude. The cockpit voice recorder revealed the captain and the first officer discussed the climb to 41,000 feet, with the first officer stating, “Man, we can do it. Forty-one it.” After the airplane reached its maximum altitude, the CVR recorded the first officer laughing as he stated, “This is great.” The controller radioed, “I’ve never seen you guys up at 41 there.” The captain replied, “We don’t have any passengers on board so we decided to have a little fun and come on up here.” The captain added, “This is actually our service ceiling.”

After a while, the captain told the first officer, “We’re losing here. We’re gonna be coming down in a second here.” About three seconds later, the captain stated, “This thing ain’t gonna hold altitude, is it?” The first officer responded, “It can’t, man. We (cruised/greased) up here but it won’t stay.” The captain stated, “Yeah, that’s funny we got up here; it won’t stay up here.” The captain radioed the controller, “It looks like we’re not even going to be able to stay up here, look, for maybe three nine oh or three seven (lower altitudes, 39,000 or 37,000 feet).” The flight data recorder showed activation of the stall warning stick shaker. The airspeed had decreased to 150 knots, and angle of attack was about 7.5 degrees. The angle of attack continued increasing, eventually reaching 29 degrees. The engines flamed out. The airplane began a roll, reaching 82 degrees left wing down. The crew declared an emergency and, unsuccessfully, tried to restart the engines as the airplane descended.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident involved the pilots’ unprofessional behavior, deviation from standard operating procedures and poor airmanship. Additional issues included pilot training and the published procedures for engine restarts.




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