This past October, the NTSB issued its final report on the July 7, 2013, crash of a de Havilland DHC-3 single-engine Otter just after takeoff from the Soldotna, Alaska, airport. The Otter is a high-wing, tailwheel, single-engine airplane designed for heavy hauling. It was in production from 1951 to 1968, and has been popular among bush pilots in Alaska and elsewhere. The U.S. Army used it to haul personnel and supplies around Vietnam during the war. It originally was powered by a radial engine, but turboprop conversions were developed for increased payload and performance.
The mission during which the accident occurred was typical of those for which the Otter is ideally suited: moving hefty amounts of people and supplies short to moderate distances without the necessity for luxurious airfields at both ends. The commercial pilot and nine passengers on board the Part 135 on-demand charter flight were killed. The NTSB’s investigation led to the conclusion that the turboprop taildragger had been overloaded, and the center of gravity (CG) was beyond the aft limit. As a result, when the airplane lifted off, it was in a tail-heavy mode, which worsened as it gained altitude and left ground effect. Within seconds, the airplane stalled and descended uncontrolled to the ground. The Safety Board’s report included a Òwe told you soÓ moment by pointing out that in both 1990 and 2014, the NTSB urged the FAA to expand the requirements of Part 135.63(c) regarding weight and balance documents to cover not just multi-engine aircraft, but single-engine aircraft as well. Single-engine Part 135 operators still are exempt from the requirements to prepare a load manifest that includes items such as the number of passengers, total weight of the loaded aircraft, the maximum allowable takeoff weight, and center of gravity location. A copy of the load manifest is supposed to be carried on multi-engine aircraft, and the records need to be kept for at least 30 days.