Aviation seems to promote camaraderie among many of those who relish being part of this unique affinity group. Airport restaurants seem to have friendlier people than one might find in typical roadside diners, at least where I live, and the folks at the local FBO are always trying to be helpful—even when they’re not going to make a dime by doing so. Helpful offers include courtesy rides to and from a restaurant or hotel, after-hours repair, free air for a tire or two, and flying tips about useful local weather phenomena and terrain.
No matter how well-intentioned the offer may be, it’s the pilot’s right and responsibility to evaluate the suggestion and accept or reject it. Unfortunately, from time to time, the NTSB ends up being involved after a pilot has rejected a suggestion from someone at
At about 9:42 a.m., on January 11, 2009, a Pilatus PC-12/45 single-engine turboprop crashed following loss of control shortly after takeoff from the Yampa Valley Airport (HDN), Hayden, Colo. The pilot and passenger were killed. The airplane was on an IFR flight plan in instrument conditions. The destination was Chino, Calif., a flight of 633 nautical miles.
The FBO manager said the pilot called at 7:30 to ask that the airplane be taken out of its heated hangar and fueled. The manager suggested to the pilot that they wait to pull the airplane until after the pilot arrived in order to prevent falling snow from accumulating on it. The pilot agreed with the suggestion, and called again about a half hour later to let the manager know that he and his passenger had arrived.
Three line crew workers assisted in getting the airplane ready for departure. They told investigators that once the airplane was pulled outside, the pilot performed a walkaround inspection before he and the passenger got on board. The airplane was fueled while the pilot and passenger remained on board. The line crew reported heavy snowfall from the time the airplane was pulled from the hangar until the airplane departed. In addition, two of the line crew members reported seeing an accumulation of wet snow on the wings. One of the two line crew members described the accumulation on the wings as “probably a good inch of slushy wet snow.” A line crew member reported that the airport manager had suggested to the pilot that he taxi to the fuel area and deice because of the accumulating heavy wet snow; however, the pilot declined the suggestion.
The pilot received his IFR clearance via radio at 9:37:42. He was cleared as filed and told to climb to FL 260, to squawk code 6533, and to report airborne. The controller advised the pilot that the weather “is marginal” and that the “ceiling’s pretty low.” The pilot acknowledged and asked if he was cleared for takeoff to which the controller replied, “affirmative report airborne.” The pilot responded, “report airborne.”
The three line crew members witnessed the takeoff roll. One said the takeoff appeared normal. The second said the airplane didn’t appear to be picking up enough speed during takeoff. The third said it was a slow takeoff roll, as if the airplane was heavy.
Airport fire department personnel pegged the departure time from runway 28 at 9:39. A fireman said that the airplane appeared to level off momentarily about 500 feet AGL before entering a right turn. He then lost sight of the airplane due to reduced visibility.
The pilot never checked in with Denver Center, which resulted in a search being started. The burning wreckage was found adjacent to the airport.
Radar data revealed that the airplane did enter a right turn after takeoff. The turn continued to tighten through approximately 270 degrees, until the airplane impacted the ground approximately one mile north-northwest of the approach end of runway 28. The data also revealed the airplane had momentarily leveled off at about 200 feet AGL, and reached a maximum altitude of approximately 900 feet AGL during the turn.
The pilot was 54 years old. He held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He held a special issuance third-class medical certificate. According to his logbook, he had 867 hours with 82 in type. However, on his last medical application made about three months after the date of the last logbook entry, he reported 2,000 total hours.
The weather observation taken about five minutes before the accident reported wind from 100 degrees at 4 knots, visibility of 3⁄4-mile, 1,200 feet overcast, temperature 19 F., and dew point 18 F. The automated weather system wasn’t equipped to detect precipitation, but airport personnel reported heavy snowfall occurring.
Snow at the accident site was more than one foot deep. Investigators got to the site via a snowcat. The airplane had impacted the ground while inverted and in a nose-down attitude of approximately 70 degrees. No problems were found with the engine or airframe that would have contributed to the loss of control.
The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s loss of control due to snow/ice contamination on the airplane’s lifting surfaces as a result of his decision not to deice the airplane before departure.
On January 29, 2011, at about 8:30 p.m., a Cessna 182K crashed in hilly terrain about two miles south of Adrian, Oregon. The private pilot and his two passengers were killed. The airplane departed Ontario, Ore., about 15 minutes before it crashed.
Family members told investigators that the passengers were relatives of the pilot. They departed Nampa Municipal Airport, Nampa, Idaho, sometime in the afternoon the day before the accident. They were going to Portland, Ore., for a memorial service and funeral. The airplane stopped at Madras City-County Airport, Madras, Ore., about 120 miles east of Portland. After landing at Madras, the pilot told the airport manager that he had already flown quite a distance west of Madras, and had attempted to get to Portland, but was unable to do so because of weather. He said he wanted to refuel and try again to get through to Portland. The airport manager tried to talk the pilot out of a second try to make it to Portland, because it was already dark and the pilot was flying VFR. The manager said that at first the pilot was adamant about trying again. The manager offered to let the pilot use his car free of charge to drive the remaining distance to Portland. Ultimately, the manager was able to convince the pilot to drive, and to bring the car back the next day with a full fuel tank. The pilot and his passengers left the airplane at Madras, and continued on to Portland by car.
On the day of the accident, the pilot and his passengers left Portland and drove back to Madras. At about 5 p.m., the pilot had 10 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel put in the airplane. According to the airport manager, soon thereafter, “just as it was starting to get dark,” the pilot departed for his return flight to Nampa. The manager also stated that a weather system with lowering ceilings was starting to move into the area about takeoff time.
The pilot didn’t make contact with any FAA facilities after departing Madras, and the next known location of the airplane and pilot was at Ontario Airport, Ontario, Ore. According to refueling records, the pilot took on 10 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel at 7:57 p.m. A passenger sent a text message to a family member saying that they were at Ontario getting fuel, and that they would be back in Nampa in about 20 minutes. When the pilot did not arrive home, family members became concerned, and after finding his vehicle still parked at the airport, they eventually reported the airplane as missing.
The pilot was 38 years old. He got his private pilot certificate about three and one-half months before the accident. He had a third-class medical certificate. His logbook showed 133 total hours with 1.8 in a Cessna 182 and 3.6 hours at night.
The airplane crashed into steeply rising terrain at the 3,000-foot level of the east-facing slope of the first line of hills that defines the west side of the valley in which Caldwell, Nampa and Boise, Idaho are situated.
According to a representative of the Sheriff’s Office that was involved in the aerial search for the aircraft, the localized weather conditions around the area at the time of the accident were variable. Some areas were under a solid cloud layer, some were under clear skies, and some areas were reported as having patchy ground fog and mist.
There were no records of the pilot having received a preflight weather briefing for the flight from Madras to Nampa from any official source.
The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the non-instrument-rated pilot not maintaining sufficient altitude to clear mountainous terrain while in cruise flight in the dark.
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.