Plane & Pilot
Thursday, April 1, 2004

The Wellstone Accident

Even the bigger birds can stall and fall

About 10:01, the copilot contacted Duluth Approach Control and reported level at 13,000 feet proceeding direct to EVM. The controller responded, “King Air four-one-bravo-echo Duluth approach, when you have Eveleth weather, advise what approach you [would] like...the last report was from a Saab descended into Duluth...had light rime ice but earlier, just about an hour ago, a DC-9 had moderate rime between niner-thousand and one-one-thousand.”

The copilot acknowledged the transmission. About 10:02, the controller radioed to descend to and maintain 4,000 feet at the pilot’s discretion.

About 10:04, the copilot radioed that he had the current EVM weather and that he’d like the VOR runway 27 approach. The controller advised, “Expect vectors for the approach.”

The copilot acknowledged the transmission. About 10:06, the controller asked the flight crew what they intended to do in the event of a missed approach.

The pilot responded, “Well, let’s hope we don’t have that. If we do have a missed approach, we’ll go up and circle and figure this out; I’ll hold at the VOR.”

About 10:09, the copilot reported leaving 13,000 feet for 4,000 feet. Radar data indicated that the airplane was approximately 34 miles south of EVM at this time. At about 10:12, the controller instructed the flight crew to descend to 3,500 feet at the pilot’s discretion. The VOR runway 27 approach procedure prescribes 2,800 feet as the initial approach altitude, but the controller said that he assigned an initial approach altitude of 3,500 feet to ensure that he didn’t lose radar contact with the accident airplane.

By 10:17:35, the airplane had leveled off at 3,500 feet and was on a 360-degree assigned heading with the airspeed decreasing through about 190 knots calibrated airspeed (KCAS).

At 10:18:13, when the airplane was less than a 1⁄2-mile south of the published VOR runway 27 approach course, the controller advised, “One-zero miles from the VOR, turn left heading three-zero-zero. Maintain three-thousand-five-hundred ’til established on the final approach course cleared for the VOR runway two-seven approach Eveleth.”

The copilot acknowledged the instruction. Radar data indicate that the airplane began turning left while maintaining 3,500 feet and slowing through about 164 KCAS. Almost immediately after the airplane began its left turn, it overshot the approach course and traveled for almost one mile north of the course as it continued the turn until it established a ground track of about 262 degrees.

At 10:19:12, the controller stated, “King Air one-bravo-echo, change to advisory frequency approved; advise cancellation of IFR with the Princeton flight service when on the ground.” The copilot acknowledged the instruction. The airplane began its descent from 3,500 feet. The decrease in airspeed stopped at about 155 KCAS and increased to about 170 KCAS. Vertical speed increased through 1,000 feet per minute (fpm) as the airplane descended through 3,200 feet. The airspeed stabilized briefly at about 170 KCAS and the vertical speed peaked at about 1,400 fpm.


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