Plane & Pilot
Thursday, April 1, 2004

The Wellstone Accident

Even the bigger birds can stall and fall

At 10:20:06, as the airplane passed through the approach course about five miles east of the runway 27 threshold, a slight right turn was initiated and the airplane’s airspeed and vertical speed decreased. The airplane established a ground track of about 269 degrees and maintained this track until the end of the radar data at 10:21:42.

The last two radar returns indicated that the airplane had slowed to about 76 KCAS at 1,800 feet. One witness saw the airplane to the west of his location (approximately 4 1⁄2 miles east of the runway 27 threshold) “just beneath a low layer of clouds” and that “the top of the airplane may still have been in the clouds.” He stated that he noticed the landing gear was down, but that he couldn’t remember if any lights were illuminated on the airplane. The airplane impacted the ground about 1.8 miles southeast of the approach end of runway 27. The wreckage location was about 1⁄4-mile south-southwest of the last radar return. Investigators and inspection flights by the FAA found slight misalignment and “bends” of signals from the Eveleth VOR. However, the Safety Board determined that these discrepancies wouldn’t have contributed to the accident. The Safety Board also found that icing was not a factor in the accident based, in part, on interviews with pilots who had been flying in the area.

The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident was the flight crew’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which they didn’t recover.

Peter Katz is editor and publisher of NTSB Reporter, an independent monthly update on aircraft accident investigations and other news concerning the National Transportation Safety Board. To subscribe, write to: NTSB Reporter, Subscription Dept., P.O. Box 831, White Plains, NY 10602-0831.


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