Thursday, December 8, 2011

VIDEO: Emirates Plane Grounded for 2 hours at Glasgow Airport


"Emirates Plane Grounded for 2 hours ScotStorm EK027 Dubai to Glasgow 8th December 2011 hurricanebawbag rain sleet snow wind 120mph"

LIAT pilots report for work

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – LIAT returned to the skies Thursday after some of the pilots who staged a two-day sickout reported for work.

The pilots were standing in solidarity with Chairman of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) Chairman Captain Michael Blackburn, who was terminated on Monday.

The company said the outspoken senior pilot had irreparably damaged the employer-employee relationship with his public comments about the airline’s safety record among other matters deemed vexing.

The resumption of service was anything but smooth sailing though with LIAT Chief Executive Officer Brian Challenger putting passengers on notice that it would take a minimum of two days for normality to return to the schedule.

Reports indicate the passengers’ frustration remained at a high across the region as travellers stranded since Tuesday had to queue up, in some instances, behind those booked to travel yesterday.

LIAT said that 50 per cent of the flights scheduled to leave Antigua took off.

Meanwhile, media reports out of Barbados and Dominica provided a snapshot into some of the chaos caused by the protest action.

Ticketing agents at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados had to call police to keep order. Irate travellers in Dominica were equally boisterous as they vied for the limited seats.

Passenger dislocation and catching up with the schedule were not the only kinks remaining on Thursday.
Representatives of LIAT and LIALPA met for a marathon session mediated by Minister of Labour Dr Errol Cort.

Sources told OBSERVER there was no agreement reached and the session will resume on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) weighed in on Blackburn’s termination, calling it absurd and unacceptable.

The TUC said LIAT’s management violated “decent labour relations process” and assured LIALPA of “unequivocal support.”

Whereas the TUC’s support was solid, there were signs that the membership of the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) was on less certain ground.

A source told OBSERVER that at a meeting on Wednesday night, while some people were staunch in support, others wanted to know what would happen if Blackburn is reinstated.

The source said the ABWU decided it would continue to press on with the issues directly impacting its membership.

Meanwhile, reports also surfaced yesterday of a cold front between LIALPA and the Leeward Islands Flight Attendants Association (LIFAA) after the later declined to join the two-day protest.

Another twist in the salvo came from Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
 
Speaking on OBSERVER AM yesterday, he expressed the desire to liquidate LIAT and move to another iteration, LIAT 2012, with additional shareholders.

Gonsalves specifically mentioned Dominica and St Lucia, saying he was aware that the leaders of those countries are keen to invest in the regional airline.

In addition to St Vincent, the other shareholder governments are Antigua & Barbuda and Barbados.

Remote Control Airplane Lands On Federal Building In Waltham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

A remote control plane crashed into the roof of a Federal Archives building in Waltham.

WALTHAM (CBS)- A three-foot remote control airplane crashed into the roof of a Federal Records Center in Waltham on Thursday.

The building was not evacuated and the incident appeared to be very minor. Earlier in the day, the owner of the plane, reported the plane missing, saying it could be on the roof of the building.

There is a large field across the street from the building on Trapelo Road, which locals say is ideal for flying model planes.

Homeland Security Police and the FBI were both called in to investigate, in part because the building is federal property.

According to the FBI, “the plane caused little to no damage to the building and a preliminary examination of the plane indicated it did not carry any harmful material.”

There was absolutely no indication that any malicious act had taken place.

Back in September, about 20 miles away from the building, the feds arrested a Massachusetts man for allegedly plotting to fly remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives into the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.

Miller, Nelson continue to support F-35 program despite latest questions

As congressmen continue to debate the production rate of the Joint Strike Fighter, Rep. Jeff Miller says Eglin’s training mission is still on track.

“F-35 aircraft continue to arrive at Eglin Air Force Base, and with ground and simulator training preparations in place, I do not foresee any long-term effects on the health of the training mission at Eglin,” Miller said in an email Thursday night.

Sen. Bill Nelson also conveyed his strong support for the F-35 to leaders on the Armed Services and Appropriations committees, and told the Daily News he will continue to support the program.
.
“It’s in our country’s best interests,” Nelson said.

Nelson’s and Miller’s assurances came days after Sen. John McCain made a floor statement that he agreed with the sentiments of Vice Adm. David J. Venlet, head of the Department of Defense’s Joint Strike Fighter program, that production should slow down.

“When the head of the most expensive, highest-profile weapon systems program in U.S. history effectively says, ‘Hold it! We need to slow down how much we are buying!’ We should all pay close attention,” McCain said Monday.
Venlet told AOL Defense, an online newsletter, that the F-35 has several structural cracks that must be fixed. The issues could add an additional $3 million to $5 million to the current $133 million per-plane price tag.

“Most of them are little ones, but when you bundle them all up and package them and look at where they are in the airplane and how hard they are to get at after you buy the jet, the cost burden of that is what sucks the wind out of your lungs,” Venlet said.

McCain and Venlet agreed that the issue was “concurrency” in the production and testing of the aircraft. Despite delaying the delivery of the first aircraft by 33 months, testing and evaluation is still under way.

“In other words, the overlap between development and production is still too great to assure taxpayers that they will not have to continue paying for costly redesigns or retrofits due to discoveries made late in production,” McCain said.

The cost is expected to increase again once the DOD factors in the last two years of program changes and updates its estimate.

McCain said the final phase of testing will not likely happen before 2015.

Regardless of the completed stages of testing, Eglin’s pilots will be able to train on simulators. The aircraft at Eglin now will hit the runways after they have been certified as safe to fly.

“I think we are all in agreement that we want to make sure the F-35 is the safest it can be before flight training begins,” Miller said in the email. “However, the Aeronautical Systems Center and Joint Strike Fighter Program Office have indicated they will meet the established safety certification criteria.”

U.S. Department of Transportation awards Essential Air Service subsidy to American Eagle

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -

The U.S. Department of Transportation has picked American Airlines and its affiliate American Eagle to receive the Essential Air Service subsidy in Sioux City.

The group submitted a bid of about $1.5 million for it a few months ago. The money will allow American to take over air service for Delta at Sioux Gateway Airport.

With the subsidy, American Airlines affiliate American Eagle will provide non-stop service to Chicago O'Hare 13 times a week. From there, the airline can take passengers on to about 250 cities in more than 40 countries.

Competitors for the subsidy, Delta and affiliate SkyWest, proposed keeping the twice daily flights to Minneapolis International.

In the last few weeks, both American Eagle and SkyWest made pitches to the city and airport board. American Eagle won out with recommendations to the DOT from both. City officials we talked to say they're happy with the results.

"American Airlines looks like a good choice for us and we hope that things move forward," said Mayor Pro Tem Tom Padgett.

Last month American Airlines and their parent company AMR filed for bankruptcy. It raised some concerned eyebrows among the community.

Local officials maintained that the bankruptcy will help reorganize American and they'll come out stronger on the other side.

US Senator Tom Harkin, who supports the airline's move to Sioux City, says the EAS subsidy will make sure American breaks even locally.

"I think American Airlines is going to be just fine on this. And, as you know, with their servicing Sioux City, they are going to get some federal funds... just to make sure they're not going to lose any money on it," said Tom Harkin, (D) Iowa.

The subsidy for American lasts two years. After that, the airline says they hope to fly here without EAS assistance. They even suggested adding additional hubs to places like Dallas-Fort Worth.

Both American Eagle and SkyWest are awaiting official confirmation from the DOT before commenting further.

 http://www.ktiv.com

U.S. Air Force Thunderbir​ds 2012 show schedule

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) (December 8, 2011 - The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds announced their 2012 show schedule Dec. 7.

The team is set to perform more than 60 demonstrations in 33 locations, including two shows in Canada.

The team, officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, will again kick-off their season by performing a flyover for the 54th running of NASCAR's Daytona 500 on Feb. 26. The remainder of the schedule is as follows:

March 17: Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

March 31 and April 1: Lakeland, Fla.

April 14-15: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

April 21-22: Barksdale AFB, La.

April 28-29: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

May 5-6: Shaw AFB, S.C.

May 12-13: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

May 19-20: March Air Reserve Base, Calif.

May 23: Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force Academy graduation flyover)

May 26-27: Hill AFB, Utah

June 2-3: Rockford, Ill.

June 9-10: Ocean City, Md.

June 16-17: North Kingstown, R.I.

June 23-24: Indianapolis, Ind.

June 30 & July 1: Battle Creek, Mich.

July 7-8: Gary, Ind.

July 21-22: Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

July 25: Cheyenne, Wyo.

July 28-29: Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska

Aug. 4-5: Hillsboro, Ore.

Aug. 11-12: Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada

Aug. 17: Atlantic City, N.J.

Aug. 25-26: Brunswick, Maine

Sept. 1-2: Davenport, Iowa

Sept. 8-9: Sacramento, Calif.

Sept. 15-16: Scott AFB, Ill.

Sept. 22-23: Salinas, Calif.

Sept. 29-30: McConnell AFB, Kan.

Oct. 6-7: Fort Worth, Texas

Oct. 13-14: Daytona Beach, Fla.

Oct. 20-21: El Paso, Texas

Oct. 27-28: Moody AFB, Ga.

Nov. 3-4: Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla.

Nov. 10-11: Nellis AFB, Nev.

"We are excited about the upcoming season and representing our fellow American Airmen," said Lt. Col. Greg Moseley, who will command and lead the team in the 2012 show season. "We feel honored to tell the story of U.S. Air Force Airmen serving on the front lines of freedom around the world. We will proudly represent each Airmen with the same pride, precision and professionalism in which they perform their duties each and every day."

As of 2012, the Thunderbirds will have been in existence for 59 years, dating back to 1953 when the team flew the straight-winged F-84G Thunderjets. This season will mark the 30th season the squadron has performed in the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Air Force's premier multi-role fighter aircraft.

The Thunderbirds team is an Air Combat Command unit composed of eight pilots, including six demonstration pilots, four support officers, four civilians and more than 100 enlisted people serving in about 30 Air Force job specialties.

A Thunderbirds aerial demonstration is a mix of formation flying and solo routines. The pilots perform approximately 40 maneuvers in a demonstration. The entire show, including the beginning ground ceremony, lasts about one hour. The air show season lasts roughly from March to November, with the winter months primarily used to train new team members.

Piper PA-28R-200 Arrow B, Whidbey Island Navy Flying Club, N2611R: Fatal accident occurred December 08, 2011 in Coupeville, Washington

NTSB Identification: WPR12FA058 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 08, 2011 in Coupeville, WA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/07/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28R-200, registration: N2611R
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Witnesses located adjacent to the accident site reported observing the accident airplane approaching their position at a low altitude while over water and that it appeared as if the pilot were attempting to land in an open prairie located at the top of a cliff. The witnesses stated that as the airplane moved closer, they did not hear the engine as the airplane impacted a bluff just below a ridgeline and a postimpact fire ensued. One witness stated that it appeared the propeller was windmilling before impact with terrain. First responders extinguished the fire with an unspecified amount of water from a fire truck. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. However, during the postaccident examination, evidence of water was located within the airframe fuel filter and engine fuel flow divider. Due to the damage sustained to the airframe and engine, it could not be determined if the water was introduced into the system during postaccident firefighting efforts or from another source.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The total loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined because postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal evidence of preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On December 8, 2011, about 1557 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N2611R, was substantially damaged during a forced landing near Coupeville, Washington. The airplane was registered to Whidbey Island Navy Flying Club, Oak Harbor, Washington, and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The local flight originated from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station (NUW), Oak Harbor, Washington, about 1500.

In a written statement to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), a witness, who was a rated pilot, located adjacent to the accident site reported observing an airplane approaching their position at an altitude of about 500 to 700 feet above the water as if the pilot was attempting to land in a nearby open field at the top of a cliff. The witness stated that as the airplane moved closer, they did not hear the engine and watched the airplane impact terrain just below a ridge line of a cliff and erupt into flames. He added that the entire time he saw the airplane, the landing gear was in the extended position and the flaps appeared to be retracted.

A second witness, who was sitting in a parked car adjacent to the accident site reported that the pilot appeared to be attempting to land in an open prairie, however, the airplane impacted the ground about halfway up a bluff. The witness added that the airplane appeared to remain at a constant altitude from the time they saw it until it impacted the ground.

First responders to the accident reported that in order to extinguish the post-accident fire, they utilized an unspecified amount of water from fire trucks.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 59, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. A third-class airman medical certificate was issued on July 22, 2010, with no limitations stated. The pilot reported on his most recent medical certificate application that he had accumulated 295 total flight hours. The pilot’s logbook was not located.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The four-seat, low-wing, retractable-gear airplane, serial number (S/N) 28R-35669, was manufactured in 1969. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-360-C1C engine, serial number L-11661-51A, rated at 200 horse power. The airplane was also equipped with a Hartzell model HC-C2YR-1BF, serial number AW2375 adjustable pitch propeller. The operator of the airplane reported that the airplane was typically parked outside on the ramp area, which was not covered.

Review of the airframe and engine maintenance logbooks revealed that an annual inspection was completed on May 26, 2011, at a tachometer time of 906 hours and airframe total time of 3,869 hours. The most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on October 7, 2011, at a tachometer time of 1,099 hours, airframe total time of 4,063 hours, and engine time since major overhaul of 1,176.9 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Review of recorded weather information from NUW, located about 10 miles north of the accident site, revealed that at 1556, weather conditions were wind from 040 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, scattered cloud layer at 2,200 feet, broken cloud layer at 4,000 feet, broken cloud layer at 25,000 feet, temperature 4 degrees Celsius, dew point -1 degree Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.43 inches of mercury.

COMMUNICATIONS

Information provided by Whidbey Island approach control revealed that the pilot initially established radio contact and reported inbound to NUW at 1,400 feet. No distress calls were received from the pilot.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane impacted a hill side about 50 feet below the top of a ridge line adjacent to an open field and came to rest upright. A large area of disturbed dirt about 20 feet upslope of the main wreckage was identified as the initial impact point. Within the area of disturbed dirt, various portions of plexi glass, nose wheel landing gear, outside air temperature gauge, and engine oil dip stick were located. The main wreckage was located about 20 feet downslope of the initial impact point. All major structural components were located within about 100-feet of the main wreckage.

Examination of the main wreckage revealed that the center portion of the fuselage from the base of the vertical stabilizer forward to the engine was consumed by fire. The left wing remained attached to the fuselage. Both the left flap and left aileron remained attached to the wing. The inboard portion of the left wing was consumed by fire. The right wing remained attached to the fuselage. Both the right flap and right aileron remained attached to the wing. The inboard portion of the right wing was consumed by fire. Both leading edges of the left and right wings were crushed aft throughout their span. The vertical stabilizer and rudder were intact and undamaged. The horizontal stabilator remained attached and was intact and undamaged. The nose wheel landing gear was separated from its mounts. Left and right main landing gears were observed in the extended position. Both the left and right vented fuel caps were intact and exhibited fire damage.

Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit control column and rudder pedals throughout to all primary flight controls. All areas of separation within the control system were consistent with thermal damage and wreckage recovery efforts. The horizontal stabilator trim actuator was measured at 0 threads, which equates to nose down, tab up, approximately 3 degrees.

Examination of the airframe fuel filter revealed that it was intact and remained attached to the engine firewall. The fuel filter bowl was removed and a liquid (tested positive with water finding paste) was observed.

Examination of the recovered engine was conducted on December 10, 2011, at the facilities of AvTech Inc., Auburn, Washington, by representatives of Lycoming Engines, Piper Aircraft, and Federal Aviation Administration under the supervision of the NTSB IIC.

The engine remained partially attached to the firewall via its mounts. The engine exhibited thermal and impact related damaged. All four cylinders remained attached to the engine crankcase. The vacuum pump, propeller governor, fuel pump, left and right magnetos were secure to their mounts and exhibited severe fire damage. The fuel injection servo was recovered with the separated throttle plate, which were fire damaged. The fuel injector servo brass plug was observed partially dislodged from the side of the fuel injector servo. The safety wire was intact. The fuel flow divider was found secure to its mount and was subsequently removed and disassembled. No defects were observed to the fuel flow divider. A trace of liquid, which tested positive with water finding paste, was observed on the rubber diaphragm and internal areas of the housing. The oil suction screen was removed and found to be free of debris. The oil sump was impact damaged.

All accessories were removed from the accessory housing. All of the spark plugs were removed. All rocker arm covers were removed. The propeller was removed. The crankshaft propeller flange exhibited impact damage and was removed from the crankshaft to facilitate crankshaft rotation. The crankshaft was rotated by hand using a hand tool at an accessory drive pad. Rotational continuity was established throughout the engine valve train and accessory gears. Thumb compression and suction was noted on all four cylinders.

The propeller assembly was intact. Both propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub in a low pitch position. One propeller blade exhibited an approximate 5 degree aft bend throughout its span. The opposing propeller blade exhibited an approximate 5 degree forward bend about 10 inches inboard from the blade tip.

The fuel injector servo was sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, DC for further examination.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Island County Coroner conducted an autopsy on the pilot on December 9, 2011. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was “...Blunt force injuries”

The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report, carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs were tested, and had negative results.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The fuel injector servo was examined at the NTSB Materials Laboratory. As-received, the hex plug was found loose and could be manually rotated and wiggled within the regulator cover plate, consistent with significant distortion within the threaded hole in the regulator cover plate. The safety wires were threaded through each of the mounting screws on the regulator cover plate and through the hex plug.

The safety wires attached to the hex plug were cut during the laboratory examination and the hex plug was manually unscrewed from the regulator cover plate. Examination of the threaded hex plug hole in the regulator cover plate using a 5X to 50 X stereo zoom optical microscope revealed that the regulator plate was heat-damaged in a manner that substantially distorted the plate at the hex plug threads. The entire regulator cover plate was heat-damaged to an extent that the aluminum core fused and flowed away leaving largely a wrinkled and sagged hollow shell comprised of oxidized aluminum and some re-solidified aluminum under the oxide.




A man was killed today when the small aircraft he was piloting crashed into a bluff on Whidbey Island, according to the Island County Sheriff's Office.

The crash occurred on Central Whidbey at Ebey's Bluff, between Perego's Lake and the parking lot at the northern end of Hill Road, at about 4 p.m. The pilot has yet to be identified but the plane has been confirmed as belonging to the Whidbey Island Navy Flying Club.

"I can identify that it was not a military member and not a student pilot," said Kimberly Martin, public affairs officer for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

The aircraft was engulfed in flames about one-third of the way from the top of the bluff, an area that is a popular spot for hiking. Firefighters responded and extinguished the flames.

According to Island County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Garden, one witness did see the crash.

"She saw it coming in and didn't hear the motor running," Garden said. "She thought it looked like they were making an emergency landing and didn't quite make the top of the hill."

Another man, who asked to remain anonymous but identified himself as a flight instructor, said the plane appeared to be a Piper. The man said he saw the smoke while driving on a nearby road and came to see if he could help.

"I ran down here thinking someone may have been able to crawl out," he said.

He arrived to find the plane partially intact – its wings were still attached – but on fire. The aircraft's orientation on the bluff indicated that it did not hit the bluff head on and the flames make it unlikely that the aircraft was out of fuel, he said.

"There's no way he'd be out of gas and burning like that," the man said.

Island County Sheriff Mark confirmed that only one person was on board. Brown said the person was deceased.
  
A pilot was killed when a small plane crashed on Whidbey Island on Thursday afternoon, the Naval Air Station Whidbey Flying Club said.

The Flying Club, which also claimed ownership of the plane, said the person killed was a certified pilot but was not a member of the military.

Images from Chopper 7 showed several emergency vehicles and the smoking wreckage near the water on Whidbey. It wasn't immediately clear if anyone was injured.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Piper aircraft was flying from Whidbey Island to Paine Field in Everett when it crashed at Ebey Field. No flight plan was filed or required, the FAA said.

The Flying Club said there should have been one person on board. Nothing has been confirmed about the actual number of people on the plane.

Cirrus SR20, N223CD: Accident occurred November 26, 2011 in Crystal Lake, Illinois

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA083 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, November 26, 2011 in Crystal Lake, IL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/15/2012
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR20, registration: N223CD
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The noninstrument-rated pilot was conducting the accident flight under visual flight rules (VFR) without a flight plan. The pilot contacted the tower air traffic controller at the intended destination airport and inquired about landing. The controller informed him that the airport was currently under instrument flight rules (IFR). About 30 seconds later, the pilot informed the controller that he had inadvertently flown over the airport. The controller ultimately cleared the flight to land; however, the pilot decided not to land, informing the controller that he did not want to get delayed at the airport due to the weather. The pilot subsequently told the controller that the flight was “in and out of the clouds.” After asking the pilot if he was IFR qualified (and learning that the pilot was not), the controller transferred the flight to the local radar-equipped approach control facility for further assistance. That controller advised the pilot of several airports in the vicinity that were under VFR. After initially indicating that he would divert to one of those airports, the pilot told the controller that he did not want to “mess with the weather” and did not want to “get stuck in here,” and he declined to proceed to that airport. Radar data depicted that, shortly after the pilot’s radio transmission, the airplane entered a gentle right turn. About 90 seconds later, the right turn tightened abruptly, consistent with the airplane entering a steep spiral. The last 19 seconds of radar data depicted the airplane entering a climb of about 2,500 feet per minute (fpm) followed by an approximate 3,600-fpm descent. Witnesses reported hearing an airplane overhead, but they were not able to see it due to the cloud cover. They described the sound as similar to an airplane performing aerobatics. The witnesses subsequently observed the airplane below the clouds in a steep, nose-down attitude before it struck the ground. Based on reported weather conditions in the vicinity of the accident site, the flight encountered instrument meteorological conditions. A postaccident examination of the airplane did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The noninstrument-rated pilot's decision to continue flight in instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in the pilot’s spatial disorientation and loss of control of the airplane.


HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On November 26, 2011, at 1026 central standard time, a Cirrus Design SR20, N223CD, was substantially damaged when it collided with a tree and terrain near Crystal Lake, Illinois. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The aircraft was registered to Marion Pilots Club and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, without a flight plan. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site. The personal flight originated from Marion Regional Airport (MZZ), Marion, Indiana about 0830. The intended destination was DuPage Airport (DPA), West Chicago, Illinois.

The line service representative at MZZ reported that the airplane was fully fueled prior to departure. The pilot informed him that they were going to Chicago. When asked, the pilot commented that he was aware of the weather west of Chicago and that conditions were forecast to be visual flight rules (VFR) at their estimated time of arrival.

Radar track data depicted the airplane on a 1200 (VFR) transponder code approaching DPA from the southeast. At 0942, the airplane was located approximately 3 miles east of the Chicago Heights VHF Omni Range (VOR) navigation facility at 2,400 feet mean sea level (msl). The airplane maintained a northwest course at 2,400 feet msl until about 0957. About that time, the airplane turned right and became established on a north course. The aircraft was located about 5 miles south of DPA, approximately 1,600 feet msl, at that time.

At 0958:05 (hhmm:ss), the pilot contacted DPA Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) and inquired about landing at DPA. Radar data indicated that the airplane was approximately 2 miles south of the airport at that time. The controller advised the pilot that the airport was under instrument flight rules (IFR). About 30 seconds later the pilot informed the controller that he had inadvertently flown over the airport. At 0959:40, the controller authorized the pilot to reverse course and land at DPA. The pilot acknowledged this transmission. About 1000, radar data indicated that the aircraft began a turn to an east course. At 1002, the pilot informed the controller that he no longer had the airport in sight. The controller provided a suggested heading to DPA.

At 1004, the pilot asked if there was another airport with better visibility because he did not "want to get in there and get stuck all day." The controller noted that Chicago Executive Airport (PWK), located about 20 miles northeast of DPA, was reporting VFR conditions. The controller asked if the pilot would like to be transferred to Chicago approach for assistance navigating to PWK. The pilot replied, "I'm still trying to decide if I want to try to land at DuPage or not . . . would you think that's a good idea or not." The pilot subsequently informed the controller that the flight was "in and out of the clouds." When the controller asked the pilot if he was instrument flight rules (IFR) qualified, the pilot replied that he was in "IFR training and I've let this get around me." At 1008, the DPA controller provided the pilot with a frequency for Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON).

At 1012:39, Chicago TRACON initiated contact with the pilot. The controller subsequently provided weather conditions at airports in the vicinity of the accident flight. At 1015:28, the pilot advised the controller that he would proceed to PWK. However, at 1022:49, the pilot advised the controller that he did not "want to mess with the weather . . . I'm gonna get out . . . and I don't want to get stuck in here." The pilot confirmed that the flight was no longer inbound to PWK. At that time, the flight was approximately 2.5 miles west-northwest of Lake in the Hills Airport (3CK). The controller subsequently transmitted, "frequency change is approved." The pilot acknowledged that transmission at 1024:23. No further communications were received from the accident flight.

At 1021, the airplane was established on a north course at approximately 1,800 feet msl. About 1023:03, the airplane entered a left turn to momentarily become established on a west course. About 1024:03, the airplane entered a right turn from the west course at 1,800 feet msl. The right turn continued until the final radar data point. About 1025:08, the airplane was established on an approximate east course at 2,000 feet msl. At 1025:31, the airplane was on an approximate southeast course at 2,400 feet msl, and 18 seconds later, the airplane was on a south course about 2,100 feet msl. At this point, the right turn appeared to tighten. At 1025:58, the airplane was established on a west course about 1,800 feet msl. The final radar data point was recorded at 1026:22. The airplane appeared to be on a south course about 1,800 feet msl. The final data point was located approximately 0.4 miles northwest of the accident site.

A witness located within 1/2 mile of the accident site reported hearing an airplane in the area; however, he was not able to see it because of the cloud cover. He noted that it sounded like the airplane was doing aerobatics, with the airplane climbing and descending. Less than 1 minute later, he observed the airplane south of his position in an approximate 70-degree nose down attitude. The airplane subsequently impacted the ground. He noted a faint fuel smell when he responded to the site shortly after the accident. He reported weather conditions as misty, with a light rain at the time of the accident.

A second witness at the same location also heard an airplane that sounded like it was performing aerobatic stunts; however, he was unable to see it because of the low cloud cover. About one minute after hearing it, he observed that airplane exit the clouds in a 60 to 70-degree nose down attitude. He estimated the visibility at 1/2 mile in light rain and mist at that time.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating issued on April 22, 2010. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicated that the pilot did not hold an instrument rating. He was issued a third-class airman medical certificate, with a restriction for corrective lenses, on June 28, 2011.

The pilot had logged about 207 hours total flight time, with approximately 114 hours flight time in the accident airplane. The pilot's logbook included a high performance airplane endorsement, and he met the requirement for a flight review (14CFR61.56) based on successful completion of the private pilot practical test within the preceding 24 months.

The pilot had logged 153.7 hours as pilot-in-command (PIC) and 78.7 hours as dual instruction received. Of that flight time, 42.0 hours were logged as both PIC and dual received, which is permitted under regulations when a current, certificated pilot is receiving flight instruction. However, of the 42.0 hours logged as PIC and dual instruction received, 38.1 hours were not endorsed by a flight instructor, which is required by regulations.

The pilot had logged 3.1 hours of simulated instrument flight time. He had also logged 28.6 hours of actual instrument flight time. However, for each flight in which actual instrument flight was logged, the actual instrument time entered was equal to the total time for the entire flight. Regulations (14 CFR 61.51) permit pilots to log instrument flight time only when they are controlling an aircraft solely by reference to the flight instruments.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION
The accident airplane was a Cirrus Design model SR20, serial number 1110. It was a four-place, low wing, single engine airplane, with a tricycle landing gear configuration. The airplane was issued an FAA normal category standard airworthiness certificate on December 30, 2000. The airplane was powered by a 210-horsepower Continental Motors IO-360-ES six-cylinder, reciprocating engine, serial number 827771-R. The engine was manufactured in August 2008.

The airframe had accumulated 1,758.7 hours total time in-service at the time of the accident. Maintenance records indicated that the engine was installed on the airframe in December 2008. At the time of the accident, it had accumulated 459.8 hours since new. The most recent annual inspection was completed on April 5, 2011, at 1,604.4 hours airframe time.

According to maintenance records, the most recent maintenance action was accomplished on November 21, 2011. The engine spark plugs were replaced and the fuel injectors were cleaned. In addition, both main landing gear tires were replaced, and the right main landing gear brake pads were replaced. There were no subsequent entries in the maintenance logbooks.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS
The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart, valid at 0900, depicted a low pressure system over Wisconsin, with an occluded front extending southward. The occluded front extended into a cold front across eastern Iowa and into Missouri. The NWS Weather Depiction Chart, valid at 1000, depicted an extensive area of IFR conditions over northern Illinois.

A review of DPA surface weather observations indicated that marginal visual flight rules (MVFR) conditions prevailed until approximately 1 hour prior to the accident. MVFR conditions are defined as cloud ceilings of between 1,000 feet and 3,000 feet above ground level (agl), and /or visibilities of between 3 and 5 miles. After that time, instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions prevailed at DPA. IFR conditions are defined as cloud ceilings below 1,000 feet agl and/or visibility below 3 miles.

Weather conditions recorded by the DPA Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), located about 22 miles south of the accident site, at 1029, were: wind from 170 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 1-3/4 miles in light rain and mist, overcast clouds at 900 feet agl, temperature 10 degrees Celsius, dew point 8 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 29.85 inches of mercury.

Prior to the accident, at 0852, the DPA observation included overcast clouds at 1,300 feet agl and 9 miles visibility. At 0935, the DPA observation included overcast clouds at 900 feet agl and 10 miles visibility. At 0952, weather conditions at DPA had deteriorated to 900 feet agl overcast, with 3 miles visibility in light rain and mist.

Weather conditions recorded by the Chicago Executive Airport (PWK) Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), located about 23 miles east of the accident site, at 1024, were: wind from 200 degrees at 12 knots, visibility 7 miles in light rain, overcast clouds at 1,300 feet agl, temperature 10 degrees Celsius, dew point 9 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 29.88 inches of mercury.

Weather conditions recorded by the Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), located about 40 miles southeast of the accident site, at 1051, were: wind from 200 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 6 miles in light rain and mist, broken clouds at 1,700 feet agl, overcast clouds at 3,000 feet agl, temperature 12 degrees Celsius, dew point 9 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 29.85 inches of mercury.

An Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) advisory warning of possible IFR conditions was valid at the time of the accident flight. AIRMET Sierra (update 3) was issued at 0845 and was valid until 1500. The area specified in the AIRMET included northern Illinois, eastern Iowa, and southern Wisconsin.

The DPA Terminal Area Forecast (TAF), in effect from 0600, expected weather conditions at 1000 to be: wind from 200 degrees at 12 knots, gusting to 19 knots; visibility 6 miles in light rain showers and mist; broken clouds at 2,500 feet agl, and overcast clouds at 3,500 feet agl. The DPA TAF was amended at 0915. The amended forecast expected weather conditions at 1000 to be: wind from 190 degrees at 12 knots; visibility 5 miles in light rain, drizzle, and mist; and overcast clouds at 800 feet agl.

The current Area Forecast (FA) was issued at 0545. Between 0900 and 1100, the FA expected a broken to overcast cloud layer from 1,500 to 2,500 feet agl, and an overcast cloud ceiling at 4,000 feet agl with cloud layers to 26,000 feet mean sea level over northern Illinois. It also forecast scatter light rain showers. The outlook was for IFR conditions due to cloud ceilings, with rain showers and mist.

There was no record that the pilot had contacted flight service for a formal preflight weather briefing related to the accident flight. In addition, there was no record that the pilot logged into the Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS) to obtain weather or flight information.

A pilot and flight instructor reported that they were en route from Rockford (RFD) to 3CK on an IFR training flight at the time of the accident. They were in solid instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) at their cruise altitude of 5,000 feet msl. They both recalled breaking out of the clouds at 1,300 feet msl (approximately 400 feet agl) during the instrument approach into 3CK. They encountered light rain; but they did not encounter any icing during the flight.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a tree and an open agricultural field about 4 miles north-northwest of Lake in the Hills Airport (3CK). Multiple tree limbs up to about 4 inches in diameter exhibiting fresh breaks were distributed over an approximate 45-foot by 45-foot area immediately north of the tree. The wreckage path was oriented on a bearing of approximately 009 degrees magnetic. The debris field was about 400 feet long by 85 feet wide originating at the tree struck during the accident sequence.

The main wreckage came to rest approximately 97 feet north of the tree. The engine was separated from the airframe and the engine mount was fragmented. The engine came to rest inverted about 155 feet from the main wreckage. The propeller assembly separated from the engine aft of the propeller flange and came to rest approximately 131 feet from the main wreckage. The vertical stabilizer, with the rudder attached, separated from the fuselage. It came to rest about 30 feet north of the main wreckage.

The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, right wing, and horizontal stabilizer. The cabin area was compromised and the fuselage was fragmented. The right wing was separated from the fuselage. Portions of the fiberglass wing structure were separated and delaminated. The right aileron remained attached to the wing. The right flap was separated and located within the debris field. The horizontal stabilizer was separated from the fuselage. The fiberglass stabilizer structure was delaminated and fragmented. The left and right elevators had separated from the stabilizer and were located within the debris field.

The left wing had separated from the fuselage. The outboard section, from the wing tip to about midspan, came to rest approximately 55 feet east of the main wreckage. A section of the lower left wing structure, including the left main landing gear strut and wheel assembly, was located about 30 feet west of the main wreckage. The remainder of the inboard portion of the left wing was fragmented. The left aileron was separated from the wing and came to rest about 275 feet north of the main wreckage. The left flap had separated from the wing and was located within the debris field.

Postaccident examinations did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the McHenry County Coroner's Office, Woodstock, Illinois, on November 28, 2011. The pilot's death was attributed to injuries received in the accident.

Toxicology testing was performed by the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute. Testing results were negative for all substances in the screening profile.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
A review of radar track data for the accident flight indicated that it was operating in Class E airspace while in the Chicago metropolitan area, with the exception of the vicinity of DPA. Within approximately 5 miles of DPA, the flight was operating in Class D airspace. Regulations require pilots operating under basic VFR in Class D and Class E airspace to remain at least 500 feet below and 2,000 feet horizontally from any cloud formation. Visibility of at least 3 miles is also required for such operations.

In order to takeoff or land at an airport located within Class D airspace under VFR, any cloud ceiling must be at or above 1,000 feet agl and the visibility must be at least 3 miles. In the case of weather conditions that are less than basic VFR, a pilot may request a special VFR clearance from air traffic control. Regulations pertaining to special VFR operations (14 CFR 91.157) require pilots to remain clear of clouds, with no additional cloud clearance distance requirements. The flight visibility must be at least 1 mile.

FAA procedures for air traffic control (Order 7110.65U) allow controllers to authorize special VFR operations for aircraft operating in class D airspace. However, special VFR may only be initiated by the pilot [§7-5-1 (a)(3)]. The order makes no provision for the controller to suggest special VFR operations to a pilot or to initiate special VFR operations on behalf of a pilot.

A ticket for an Indianapolis Colts football game, valid for Sunday, November 27, 2011, was located in the accident debris field.



The memorial service for Shey Harris held Thursday at AU featured Shey's favorite thing, dance. Here an ensemble performs a untitled dance during the service. 
 
 Shey Harris.
(Photo provided by Anderson University)

ANDERSON, Ind. — Shey Harris danced because it was her gift from God.

“She choreographed to impact an audience deeply,” Chelsea Ludwig recalled. “She was bold and passionate about bringing song and dance back to ministry.”

Ludwig shared her fondest memories of her close friend and neighbor during a memorial service for Harris on Thursday at Anderson University.

Harris, an AU dance business major, was one of four killed in a small-plane crash on the morning of Nov. 26 in northeastern Illinois.

The crash also claimed the lives of her father, Marion businessman Ray Harris, who was the pilot; her younger sister, Wheaton College student Ramie Harris; and family friend Chris Backus, a student at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion and resident of Eau Claire, Wis.

Thursday’s memorial service was filled with music and dance, two things that AU and friends said were very important to Harris.

“Like Shey’s life, this service was planned to have flow,” said campus pastor Todd Faulkner. “I want to read Psalm 150, the call to dance. Shey’s life continued to be an expression of praise.”

Jordan Moody fondly remembered the first time he met Harris.

“I remember being intimidated by her radiant beauty,” he said. “Then she laughed at my jokes and I knew she was a special girl.”

With tears in his eyes and a choked voice, Moody said that Harris’ main goal after college was to use dance as a ministry to others.

“I speak for everyone when I say there’s a spot in the studio and one in our hearts for Shey that will always remain,” he said.

http://heraldbulletin.com
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Agency issues crash report

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA083
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, November 26, 2011 in Crystal Lake, IL
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR20, registration: N223CD
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On November 26, 2011, about 1025 central standard time, a Cirrus Design SR20, N223CD, impacted a tree and terrain near Crystal Lake, Illinois. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The aircraft was registered to Marion Pilots Club and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as personal flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site. The flight originated from Marion Regional Airport (MZZ), Marion, Indiana about 0830. The intended destination was DuPage Airport (DPA), West Chicago, Illinois.

At 0958, the pilot contacted DPA Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) and inquired about landing at DPA. The controller advised the pilot that the airport was under instrument flight rules. However, the flight inadvertently flew over the airport. The pilot reversed course in an attempt to return to the airport but lost sight of it. He subsequently informed the controller that he was not sure if he wanted to land at DPA because he did not want to "get in there and get stuck all day" due to the weather. The controller noted that Chicago Executive Airport (PWK), located about 20 miles northeast of DPA, was reporting visual flight rules (VFR) conditions. The pilot subsequently informed the controller that the flight was "in and out of the clouds right now." When the controller asked the pilot if he was instrument flight rules (IFR) qualified, the pilot replied that he was in "IFR training and I've let this get around me."

About 1012, the flight was transferred to the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility. The Chicago TRACON controller also provided weather conditions at airports in the vicinity of the accident flight. The pilot initially advised the controller that he would proceed to PWK, which the closest airport reporting VFR weather conditions at the time. However, the pilot later advised the controller that he was no longer inbound to PWK. He commented that he didn't want to "mess with the weather" and didn't want to "get stuck in here." The controller subsequently approved a frequency change and the pilot acknowledged that transmission. No further communications were received from the accident flight.

A witness located within 1/2 mile of the accident site reported hearing an airplane in the area; however, he was not able to see it because of the cloud cover. He noted that it sounded like the airplane was doing aerobatics, with the airplane climbing and descending. Less than 1 minute later, he observed the airplane south of his location in an approximate 70-degree nose down attitude. The airplane subsequently impacted the ground. He noted a faint fuel smell shortly after the accident when he responded to the site. It was misty, with a light rain at the time of the accident.

The airplane impacted a tree and an open agricultural field about 4 miles north-northwest of Lake in the Hills Airport (3CK). Multiple tree limbs up to about 4 inches in diameter exhibiting fresh breaks were distributed over an approximate 45-foot by 45-foot area immediately north of the tree. The wreckage path was oriented on a bearing of approximately 009 degrees magnetic. The debris field was about 400 feet long by 75 feet wide originating at the tree bordering the field. The main wreckage came to rest approximately 97 feet north of the tree. The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, right wing, and horizontal stabilizer. The remaining airframe components, including all control surfaces, were located within the debris field. The engine and propeller had separated from the airframe and were each located 155 feet and 131 feet north of the main wreckage, respectively.

Weather conditions recorded at DPA, located about 22 miles south of the accident site, at 1029, included overcast clouds at 900 feet above ground level, 1-3/4 miles visibility in light rain and mist, and wind from 170 degrees at 11 knots.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating issued on April 22, 2010. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicated that the pilot did not hold an instrument rating. He was issued a third-class airman medical certificate, with a restriction for corrective lenses, on June 28, 2011. Prior to the accident, the pilot had logged about 205 hours total flight time, with approximately 114 hours flight time in the accident airplane. The accident flight was approximately 2 hours in duration. The pilot's logbook included a high performance airplane endorsement.

The accident airplane was a Cirrus Design model SR20, serial number 1110. The airplane was powered by a 210-horsepower Continental Motors IO-360-ES six-cylinder, reciprocating engine, serial number 827771-R. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated about 1,758 hours total time in-service. The engine was installed on the airframe in December 2008 and had accumulated about 459 hours since new. According to the airplane maintenance records, the most recent annual inspection was completed on April 5, 2011.

Shannon airport options get grounded

CIARÁN HANCOCK

ONE MORE THING: WHILE WE await Booz’s findings into its reviews of options for Cork and Shannon Airports, I have managed to gain an insight into a submission made by worker-directors to minister for transport Leo Varadkar.

It was compiled by Dr Eoin Reeves and Dr Dónal Palcic from the Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick. They were asked to look at a variety of options for Shannon Airport, including separation from the Dublin Airport Authority, privatisation and the possibility of outsourcing the management of the airport to an outside party.

The verdict? None of the above would work.

This shouldn’t surprise us. Shannon is loss making and its debts are reported to be €100 million. Passenger traffic has collapsed in the past couple of years.

In addition, the workers are unlikely to want to leave the warm embrace of the DAA in the current uncertain financial climate.

The Kemmy consultants found that the privatisation of the DAA was “not a realistic option” as the loss of control over important national infrastructure would have “severe implications” for our tourism and industrial development policies.

They also ruled out separation, stating that this would involve the DAA either assuming or writing off its debt, which is not practical in the current climate.

They also rejected the idea of either the DAA or a separated Shannon authority granting a management contract to run the airport to a private operator.

Based on their assessment of such contracts in other counties, they concluded that there were “potential risks” associated with such a model, namely a loss of control on issues outside the terms of the contract.

They acknowledged that the current situation at Shannon was “unsustainable” and its relationship with the DAA was sub-optimal.

One option, they state, is for Shannon to stay within the DAA but to alter the existing structure. Another is to separate Shannon by creating a new commercial state owned entity.

“Both options involve considerable challenges but it is unlikely that a way forward can be charted without the provision of state resources (possibly through the National Pension Reserve Fund).”

That suggestion is unlikely to fly although Varadkar has indicated that the status quo cannot remain. Here’s hoping Booz has some bright ideas.


Clark Gable's grandson guilty of pointing laser at LAPD chopper

The grandson of acting great Clark Gable pleaded guilty Thursday to pointing a laser at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter last summer as it flew over Hollywood Boulevard, the district attorney’s office announced.

Clark James Gable, 23, of Canoga Park, pleaded guilty to one felony count of discharge of a laser at an occupied aircraft. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors will ask that Superior Court Judge David Horwitz agree to drop two other felony counts — discharge of a laser and one count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury.

At his Jan. 12 sentencing, Gable is expected to receive 10 days of jail time and 200 hours on a CalTrans work crew.

As part of the plea, Gable admitted that while he was riding in a car traveling down La Brea Avenue at 10 p.m. on July 28, he flashed a laser three times at an LAPD helicopter that was flying 800 feet above Hollywood Boulevard.

He later told KCBS-TV that the incident was a "misunderstanding" and that "people make mistakes and you learn from them."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Holly Harpham said the 52-milliwatt laser light — which has a range of over 1,000 feet in distance — temporarily blinded the two LAPD officers in the helicopter. The LAPD tracked the beam to a small red car that was traveling in the area off Franklin and Highland Avenues.

The driver, Maximilian Anderson, was arrested at the scene, although he was not charged because there was not enough evidence to prove he knew Gable was pointing a laser at the police chopper.

Rockwell Commander 690A, Ponderosa Aviation Inc., N690SM: Accident occurred November 23, 2011 in Apache Junction, Arizona

http://registry.faa.gov/N690SM
 
NTSB Identification: WPR12MA046 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, November 23, 2011 in Apache Junction, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/03/2013
Aircraft: ROCKWELL 690, registration: N690SM
Injuries: 6 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Ponderosa Aviation, Inc. (PAI) purchased the airplane and relocated it from Indiana to PAI's base at Safford Regional Airport (SAD), Safford, Arizona, about 1 week before the accident. PAI's president conducted the relocation flight under a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ferry permit due to an unaccomplished required 150-hour inspection on the airplane. The airplane's arrival at SAD terminated the ferry permit, and no inspections were accomplished to render the airplane airworthy after its relocation. Although other airworthy airplanes were available, PAI's director of maintenance (DOM) (the accident pilot) and the director of operations (DO), who were co-owners of PAI along with the president, decided to use the nonairworthy airplane to conduct a personal flight from SAD to Falcon Field (FFZ), Mesa, Arizona, about 110 miles away. All available evidence indicates that the DOM was aware of the airplane's airworthiness status and that this was the first time he flew in the accident airplane. The DO flew the leg from SAD to FFZ under visual flight rules (VFR) in night visual meteorological conditions (VMC). After arriving at FFZ and in preparation for the flight back to SAD, the DOM moved to the left front seat to act as the pilot flying.

The airplane departed FFZ about 12 minutes after it arrived. The return flight was also conducted under VFR in night VMC. There was no moon, and the direction of flight was toward sparsely lit terrain. After takeoff, the air traffic control (ATC) tower controller instructed the pilot to maintain runway heading until advised due to an inbound aircraft. About 2 minutes later, the controller cleared the airplane for its requested right turn and then began a position relief briefing for the incoming controller. No subsequent communications to or from the airplane occurred, nor were any required. Radar data indicated that the airplane turned onto a course directly towards SAD and climbed to and leveled at an altitude of 4,500 feet. About 4 minutes after the right turn, while continuing on the same heading and ground track, the airplane impacted a mountain in a wings-level attitude at an elevation of about 4,500 feet.

Although the airplane was technically not airworthy due to the unaccomplished inspection, the investigation did not reveal any preimpact airframe, avionics, engine, or propeller discrepancies that would have precluded normal operation. Airplane performance derived from radar tracking data did not suggest any mechanical abnormalities or problems.

FFZ, which has an elevation of 1,394 feet mean sea level (msl), is situated about 15 miles west-northwest of the impact mountain. The mountain is surrounded by sparsely lit terrain and rises to a maximum charted elevation of 5,057 feet msl. The investigation was unable to determine whether, or to what degree, the pilot conducted any preflight route and altitude planning. If such planning had been properly accomplished, it would have accounted for the mountain and provided for terrain clearance. The pilot had flown the round trip flight from SAD to FFZ several times and, most recently, had flown a trip from SAD to FFZ in night VMC 2 days before the accident. Thus, the pilot was familiar with the route and the surrounding terrain. According to the pilot's brother (PAI's president), the pilot typically used an iPad for navigation and flew using the ForeFlight software app with the "moving map" function. The software could display FAA VFR aeronautical charts (including FAA-published terrain depictions) and overlay airplane track and position data on the chart depiction. Although iPad remnants were found in the wreckage, the investigation was unable to determine whether the pilot adhered to his normal practice of using an iPad for the flight or, if so, what its relevant display settings (such as scale or terrain depiction) were. Had the pilot been using the ForeFlight app as he normally did, he could have been able to determine that the airplane would not clear the mountain on the given flight track.

According to the pilot's brother, the pilot typically departed an airport, identified the track needed to fly directly to his destination, and turned the airplane on that track. Radar tracking data from the accident flight indicated that the airplane began its turn on course to SAD about 2 miles northeast of FFZ. Comparison of the direct line track data from FFZ to SAD with the track starting about 2 miles northeast of FFZ direct to SAD revealed that while the direct line track from FFZ to SAD passed about 3 miles south of the impact mountain, the direct track from the point 2 miles northeast of FFZ to SAD overlaid the impact mountain location. Thus, the pilot likely set on a direct course for SAD even though the delayed right turn from FFZ put the airplane on a track that intersected the mountain. The pilot did not adjust his flight track to compensate for the delayed right turn to ensure clearance from the mountain.

In addition, a sector of the Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) Class B airspace with a 5,000-foot floor was adjacent to the mountain range, which reduced the vertical options available to the pilot if he elected to remain clear of that airspace. The pilot's decision to remain below the overlying Class B airspace placed the airplane at an altitude below the maximum elevation of the mountain. The pilot did not request VFR flight following or minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW) services. Had he requested VFR flight following services, he likely would have received safety alerts from ATC as defined in FAA Order 7110.65. Had he requested the MSAW in particular, he likely would have received an advisory that his aircraft was in unsafe proximity to terrain. Further, the investigation was unable to determine why the pilot did not request clearance to climb into the Class B airspace or fly a more southerly route that would have provided adequate terrain clearance. On the previous night VMC flight from FFZ to SAD, the pilot stayed below the Class B airspace but turned toward SAD right after departure. In response to issues raised by this accident, the FAA conducted a Performance Data Analysis Report System (PDARS) study to determine the legitimacy of a claim that it was difficult for VFR aircraft to be granted clearance to enter Class B airspace. The PDARS study revealed that on the day of the accident, 341 VFR aircraft were provided services by Phoenix TRACON. The PDARS study, however, was unable to document how many aircraft were actually within the Class B airspace itself or how many had been refused services; the study only documented how many had been provided services. In response to a January 20, 2012, FAA internal memo formally restating the claim that it was difficult for VFR aircraft to obtain clearance into the PHX Class B airspace, the FAA conducted a comprehensive audit of the PHX Class B airspace that spanned four different time periods and was spread among several sectors during peak traffic periods to provide the most accurate picture. Of 619 requests for VFR aircraft to enter Class B airspace, 598 (96.61%) were granted. While data was not available to refute or substantiate any claims from previous years regarding difficulty obtaining clearance into the PHX Class B airspace, this data clearly indicated that difficulty obtaining clearance into the PHX Class B airspace did not exist during the four time periods in which the audit took place in the months after the accident.

The moonless night decreased the already low visual conspicuity of the mountain. The airplane was equipped with very high frequency omnirange and GPS navigation units, a radar altimeter, and an Avidyne EX-500 multifunction display. Had the pilot conducted the flight under instrument flight rules (IFR), the resultant handling by ATC would have helped ensure terrain clearance.

The airplane was not equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS). Six years earlier, the accident airplane seating configuration was changed to reduce passenger seat provisions from six to five by removing a seat belt from the aft divan, which was originally configured with seat belts for three people. This modification rendered the airplane exempt from the TAWS requirement; however, this modification was not approved by the FAA or documented via a supplemental type certificate or FAA Form 337 (Major Repair and Modification). Per the requirements of 14 Code of Federal Regulations 91.223, TAWS is not required for airplanes with fewer than six passenger seats. In this accident, onboard TAWS equipment could have provided a timely alert to help the pilot avoid the mountain.

Based on the steady flight track; the dark night conditions; the minimal ground-based lighting; and the absence of preimpact airplane, engine, or propeller anomalies that would have affected the flight, the airplane was likely under the control of the pilot and was inadvertently flown into the mountain. This controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accident was likely due to the pilot's complacency (because of his familiarity with the flight route and because he selected a direct route, as he had previously done, even though he turned toward the destination later than he normally did) and lack of situational awareness. In January 2008, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a safety alert titled "Controlled Flight Into Terrain in Visual Conditions: Nighttime Visual Flight Operations Are Resulting in Avoidable Accidents." The safety alert stated that recent investigations identified several accidents that involved CFIT by pilots operating under VFR at night in remote areas, that the pilots appeared unaware that the aircraft were in danger, and that increased altitude awareness and better preflight planning likely would have prevented the accidents. The safety alert suggested that pilots could avoid becoming involved in a similar accident by accomplishing several actions, including proper preflight planning, obtaining flight route terrain familiarization via sectional charts or other topographic references, maintaining awareness of visual limitations for operations in remote areas, following IFR practices until well above surrounding terrain, advising ATC and taking action to reach a safe altitude, and employing a GPS-based terrain awareness unit.

Member Sumwalt filed a concurring statement that can be found in the public docket for this accident. Member Weener joined the statement.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to maintain a safe ground track and altitude combination for the moonless night visual flight rules flight, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain. Contributing to the accident were the pilot's complacency and lack of situational awareness and his failure to use air traffic control visual flight rules flight following or minimum safe altitude warning services. Also contributing to the accident was the airplane's lack of onboard terrain awareness and warning system equipment.

Member Sumwalt filed a concurring statement that can be found in the public docket for this accident. Member Weener joined the statement.


HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On November 23, 2011, about 1831 mountain standard time, a Rockwell International (Aero Commander) 690A airplane, N690SM, was destroyed when it impacted terrain in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction, Arizona. The commercial pilot and the five passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Ponderosa Aviation, Inc. (PAI) and operated by PAI under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Night visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane had departed Falcon Field (FFZ), Mesa, Arizona, about 1825 and was destined for Safford Regional Airport (SAD), Safford, Arizona.

PAI's director of maintenance (DOM) and the director of operations (DO), who were co owners of PAI along with the president, conducted a personal flight from SAD to FFZ. The DO flew the leg from SAD to FFZ under visual flight rules (VFR) in night VMC. After arriving at FFZ and in preparation for the flight back to SAD, the DOM moved to the left front seat to act as the pilot flying. The airplane departed FFZ about 12 minutes after it arrived. According to a witness, engine start and taxi-out appeared normal.

Review of the recorded communications between the pilot and the FFZ tower air traffic controllers revealed that when the pilot requested taxi clearance, he advised the ground controller that he was planning an "eastbound departure." The flight was cleared for takeoff on runway 4R, and the pilot was instructed to maintain runway heading until advised, due to an inbound aircraft. About 90 seconds later, when the airplane was about 1.1 miles from the departure end of the runway, the tower local controller issued a "right turn approved" advisory to the flight, which the pilot acknowledged. Radar data revealed that the airplane flew the runway heading for about 1.5 miles then began a right turn toward SAD and climbed through an altitude of about 2,600 feet mean sea level (msl). About 1828, after it momentarily climbed to an altitude of 4,700 feet, the airplane descended to an altitude of 4,500 feet, where it remained and tracked in an essentially straight line until it impacted the mountain. The last radar return was received at 1830:56 and was approximately coincident with the impact location. The impact location was near the top of a steep mountain that projected to over 5,000 feet msl. Witnesses reported seeing a fireball, and law enforcement helicopters were dispatched.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

Pilot (General Information)

The pilot, age 31, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for single-engine and multiengine land and instrument airplane. He also held a mechanic certificate with ratings for airframe and powerplant. His Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical certificate was issued in July 2011. The pilot was a co-owner of PAI and was PAI's DOM.

The pilot's personal flight records contained entries until February 2011, at which time the pilot recorded that he had 1,151.9 hours in single-engine airplanes and 951.5 hours in multiengine airplanes. On his most recent FAA medical certificate application, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 2,500 hours.

The computerized PAI flight record (which began tracking 14 CFR Part 135 flights only in February 2011) indicated that the pilot had 116.5 hours total flight experience, including 18 hours in night VMC. According to the records, during the preceding 90 and 30 days, the pilot had accumulated about 28.5 and 5.3 flight hours, respectively. The records showed that the pilot had flown 2 hours on two different flights in the week before the accident. The most recent flight was in night VMC from SAD to FFZ and back. Examination of the flight records revealed that the pilot had flown that round trip flight at least twice, in the previous 2 weeks.

Pilot Training

According to PAI and its FAA principal operations inspector (POI), employee pilots receive annual training over a 2- to 3-day period. The chief pilot organized most of the training, which consisted of regulation review, company policy, and actual flight training. The POI observed parts of the training. According to company training records, the pilot's most recent 14 CFR Part 135 competency/proficiency check was satisfactorily completed on September 24, 2011.

Pilot's 72-Hour History

According to the pilot's wife, in the 3 days before and including the accident day, the pilot awoke about 0630 and left for work about 0700. Two days before the accident, he flew to FFZ, arriving back at SAD about 2145.

Relatives of the pilot stated that nothing unusual had occurred in his life in the 72-hour period before the accident. His wife reported that the pilot did not take medications, aside from a hypothyroidism medication that he had reported to the FAA, and he did not have any physical conditions or ailments aside from the hypothyroidism.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Forensic Science Center in Tucson, Arizona, conducted an autopsy on the pilot; the cause of death was cited as blunt force trauma. The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team at the Civil Aviation Medical Institute performed toxicological testing of specimens collected during the autopsy. The results of the specimens were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and listed drugs.

AIRPLANE INFORMATION

General

The airplane was manufactured in 1976 by Rockwell International, and the type certificate holder at the time of the accident was Twin Commander, LLC. The airplane was equipped with two Honeywell TPE-331-series turboshaft engines and two Hartzell three-blade propellers. Maintenance records indicated that the airframe had accumulated a total time in service of about 8,188 hours. The left engine had accumulated a total time since major overhaul of about 545 hours, and the right engine had accumulated a total time since major overhaul of about 1,482 hours.

The airplane was recently purchased by PAI and was flown about 1,200 miles from Indiana to the PAI facility at SAD about 1 week before the accident. It was certificated for single-pilot operation. At the time of the accident, the airplane was configured for a pilot (left side), a copilot (right side), and five passengers.

According to the sale advertisement listing for the airplane, the airplane was equipped with very high frequency omnirange (VOR) and GPS (KLN 90B) navigation units, a radar altimeter, and an Avidyne EX-500 multifunction display, which were destroyed in the accident.

Ferry Permit Information

At the time of purchase by PAI, the airplane was not in compliance with an FAA required 150-hour inspection requirement, and PAI requested an FAA ferry permit to fly the airplane from Eagle Creek Airpark (EYE), Indianapolis, Indiana, to the PAI facility in Safford, Arizona. On November 16, 2011, the FAA issued a ferry permit for the relocation of the airplane. The permit was valid until arrival at SAD or November 25, 2011, whichever came first. It only permitted a direct flight between EYE and SAD and only allowed the pilot and essential crew on board. The airplane was flown by the PAI president, who was the brother of the accident pilot, from EYE to SAD on November 17, 2011. The arrival at SAD terminated the ferry permit.

PAI and FAA Scottsdale Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) personnel estimated that it would normally require two people 2 days to conduct the inspection necessary to render the airplane in compliance with the outstanding airworthiness items, exclusive of correcting any identified deficiencies. All available evidence indicated that no maintenance activity was accomplished on the airplane between its arrival at SAD and its departure to FFZ on the night of the accident; the condition that warranted the ferry permit had not been corrected.

Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) Equipment Information

Title 14 CFR 91.223 stated that with certain exceptions, turbine-powered, US registered airplanes configured with six or more passenger seats and manufactured before early 2002 could not be operated after March 29, 2005, unless the airplane was equipped with an approved TAWS unit.

Since the accident airplane was manufactured in 1976 and was turbine-powered, any exclusion from the TAWS requirement required that the airplane had to be configured with five or fewer passenger seating positions. According to the type certificate holder's documentation, the airplane was manufactured and delivered with six passenger seating positions. Therefore, the airplane's as manufactured configuration required the installation of TAWS by March 2005. No records indicating that the number of passenger seating positions was ever less than six before May 2005 were located. However, a detailed review of airplane maintenance records, preaccident photographs, TAWS equipment manufacturer's data, and a detailed inventory of the recovered wreckage indicated that the accident airplane was never equipped with TAWS. (The sale advertisement information for the airplane indicated that it was equipped with a KGP-560 TAWS B unit.)

Maintenance documentation indicated that in May 2005, the airplane seating configuration was changed to reduce passenger seat provisions from six to five by removing a seat belt from the aft divan, which was originally configured with seat belts for three people. Per the requirements of 14 CFR 91.223 and the reduced passenger seat count, the airplane was not required to be equipped with TAWS.

However, FAA and manufacturer/type certificate holder guidance indicated that any seating configuration changes should be approved by either the FAA or the manufacturer/type certificate holder, and examination of the maintenance documentation for the accident airplane revealed that neither requirement had been satisfied. The seating modification was not approved by the FAA or any other agency or documented either via a supplemental type certificate and/or FAA Form 337 (Major Repair and Alteration). Postaccident review of the documentation that was used to substantiate the seating configuration change revealed that the modified seating position plan was not one of the manufacturer's/type certificate holder's approved configurations. The document that was used to substantiate the change was determined to be an altered version of the manufacturer's original document, but it was incorrectly represented as a manufacturer's original document. Attempts to determine who made the improper and unauthorized changes to the seating configuration document, or when they were made, were unsuccessful.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The FFZ 1854 automated weather observation included wind from 350 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 40 miles, few clouds at 20,000 feet, temperature 23 degrees C, dew point -1 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of Mercury. US Naval Observatory data for November 23, 2011, indicated that the moon, which was a waning crescent of 3%, set at 1605, and local sunset occurred at 1721.

AIDS TO NAVIGATION

Neither FFZ nor SAD was equipped with a VOR ground navigation facility. Navigation between the two airports via available VOR stations would result in an indirect flight route.

The flight from SAD to FFZ and the accident flight were both conducted in VMC as VFR flights. No flight plan was filed for either flight, and neither pilot had requested air traffic control (ATC) flight following services. Available radar data and interviews with PAI personnel indicated that the pilot had flown between SAD and FFZ several times previously and that he tended to use his iPad, equipped with ForeFlight software and GPS, to fly directly between the two. The software could display FAA VFR aeronautical charts (including FAA-published terrain depiction) and overlay airplane track and position data on the chart depiction. According to the pilot's brother, the pilot's habit pattern was to depart the airport, identify the track needed to fly directly to the destination, and turn the airplane onto that track. Remnants of an iPad were found in the wreckage. Damage precluded determination of its positive association with a particular owner, its functionality, or its operational status at the time of the accident.

Radar tracking data from the accident flight indicated that the airplane began its right turn on course to SAD about 1.5 miles northeast of FFZ. Comparison of the direct line track data from two different initial locations (FFZ, and northeast of FFZ after completion of the turn) to SAD revealed that while the direct track from FFZ to SAD passed about 3 miles south of the impact mountain, the direct track from northeast of FFZ to SAD overlaid the impact mountain location. That resulting ground track was also coincident with the accident flight radar data ground track.

COMMUNICATIONS

Sequence of Events

The pilot first contacted FFZ ground control at 1820:21. The pilot was instructed to taxi to runway 4R via taxiway D, and he taxied as instructed without incident. At 1823:35, the pilot contacted FFZ local control and advised that he was holding short and was ready for departure. The pilot was advised to again hold short to wait for landing traffic. At 1825:00, the controller instructed the pilot to "fly straight out" until advised due to landing traffic and cleared him for takeoff from runway 4R. The airplane became airborne at 1826:14. At 1826:47, the controller issued the "right turn approved" advisory to the pilot. At that point, the airplane was still on the runway heading, about 1.45 nautical miles (nm) from FFZ, and climbing through an altitude of about 2,200 feet. The pilot responded to the transmission with "right turn approved." No further radio transmissions to or from the accident pilot were recorded.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

General

FFZ was equipped with two runways designated 4/22 L and R. The airplane's arrival and departure runway (4R) measured 5,101 feet by 100 feet. Airport elevation was 1,394 feet msl. The local topography consisted of a flat basin floor bounded by mountainous terrain, primarily to the north and east. FFZ was situated about 15 miles west-northwest of the impact mountain, which rose very steeply to a charted maximum elevation of 5,057 feet msl, or about 3,700 feet above FFZ.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Accident Site

The accident site was on the northwest face near the top of the Flatiron region of Superstition Mountain. The accident site consisted of two basic terrain areas: a sloped area (about 45 degrees downhill to the northwest), abutted by a vertical rock formation on its southeast side.

The sloped area was primarily rock, interlaced with cracks, soil patches, boulders, and sparse vegetation. The rock formation rose about 100 feet above the southeastern edge of the sloped area. Airplane debris was scattered on the sloped area in a primary field that measured about 150 feet southeast-northwest by about 80 feet northeast-southwest. A significant amount of debris was clustered near the base of the vertical face, with some debris strewn or caught on the face. The southeast section of the sloped area and much of the vertical face were fire damaged, soot covered, or scorched. The northwest edge of the sloped debris field was about 150 feet southeast of the end of the sloped terrain, which then became very steep (sometimes near vertical) and fell irregularly away to the valley floor about 3,000 feet below.

On-Site Wreckage Observations

The impact site was located on steep rocky terrain at an elevation of about 4,500 feet msl that was essentially only accessible by helicopter. The wreckage was recovered by helicopter and transported to a secure facility for subsequent detailed examination.

The airplane was highly fragmented. The debris pattern axis was oriented northwest to southeast, and the debris and fire damage were arrayed in a fan-like pattern consistent with the approximate flight direction. Most airplane components were severely impact and fire-damaged. Some debris (heavier/denser items, such as engine gearbox components and generators) was found northwest (downhill) of the main debris field, consistent with those components rolling downhill after impact. The largest wreckage section was a portion of an inboard wing box with one engine attached. Paint transfer marks on the rock face were consistent with a wings-level (roll axis) impact.

Both engines and portions of their propellers were identified in the wreckage. Propeller, engine, and gearbox damage was consistent with high power rotation at impact. All three landing gear were identified in the wreckage, and damage patterns were consistent with the landing gear being retracted at impact. Some airplane skin segments exhibited significant accordion-like crush damage. Many cockpit-related items, including instruments, instrument panel sections, and pilots' seat fragments, were found on the terrain beyond the vertical rock formation; some were several hundred feet beyond the vertical rock formation.

Damage patterns were consistent with the engines developing power at the time of impact. The majority of the first-stage compressor impeller blades were separated at the hubs. The second-stage compressor impeller blades were bent opposite the direction of rotation. There was rotational scoring on the aft side of the third-stage turbine blade platforms and metal spray deposits on the suction side of the third-stage turbine blades. No preimpact discrepancies that would have precluded normal engine operation were identified.

The blade damage to both propellers was severe, with leading-edge damage, multiple bends, twisting, concave bending of the blade chord at the tips, and tips that had fractured and separated. Two separate blade angle witness marks were each consistent with impact while at a normal (not in feather and not in reverse) operating position. No preimpact discrepancies that would have precluded normal propeller operation were identified.

ORGANIZATIONAL AND MANAGEMENT INFORMATION

Ponderosa Aviation, Inc.

PAI was founded in 1975 by the pilot-rated passenger's father. Later, the pilot and his brother purchased the company, and, in January 2011, the pilot-rated passenger, who had worked there for many years, bought into a partnership with them.

At the time of the accident, PAI, which was based at SAD, employed 25 people, including 13 pilots (10 on a seasonal/part-time basis) and 9 maintenance personnel. PAI owned a total of 14 airplanes, including the accident airplane. The fleet included three Rockwell International (Aero Commander) 690 models and nine 500 models.

PAI held a 14 CFR Part 135 operating certificate for on-demand air carrier operations in the contiguous United States and the District of Columbia. However, PAI rarely exercised the privileges of that certificate and averaged about two revenue passenger transport flights per year. PAI's primary purpose for obtaining and maintaining the certificate was to be qualified to contract with the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for air attack missions (the application of aerial resources, by both fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft, on a fire).

Eight of the PAI airplanes were on the 14 CFR Part 135 certificate; the accident airplane had not yet been added to the certificate.

FAA Oversight

The FAA FSDO in Scottsdale, Arizona, was the assigned certificate-holding district office for PAI and oversaw about 60 Part 135 certificated operators, no Part 121 certificated operators, and about 520 Part 91 operators.

The POI was assigned to PAI in 2007. Her duties included oversight of 12 designees and 30 check airmen and POI for 54 operators. PAI was one of 10 Part 135 operators assigned to the POI. She estimated that she had about 100 hours in Rockwell International/Aero Commander airplanes, 25 of which were in the 690 model. The POI considered PAI to be a "low-maintenance operator," meaning that PAI was compliant with FAA requirements and presented few issues of concern. She physically visited PAI about once per year. Due to the distance between the FSDO and SAD, she never made unannounced visits. Her visits would take about 2 days, during which she would oversee pilot training, examine records and recordkeeping, and conduct base inspections and ramp checks. She never gave checkrides to PAI pilots; those were conducted by another inspector. The POI qualified the pilot-rated passenger as a "good" chief pilot. He was the person at PAI with whom the POI had the most contact, and she would mainly communicate her concerns and questions to him. She did not have much familiarity with the pilot.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Homeowner's Surveillance Camera Imagery

The airplane's preimpact flightpath, impact explosion, postimpact fire, and initial arrival of search and rescue aircraft were captured on a private citizen's home surveillance camera. That camera was located about 6 miles south of and 3,700 feet lower than the impact site. A file that contained about 50 minutes of image data, during the period from about 1810 to 1900, was provided to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The time stamp data was provided by the camera owner and was not independently correlated or verified by the NTSB; therefore, all times are approximate.

The 1810 image depicted the mountain in silhouette form, but as night fell, the mountain disappeared from the image. No lights were visible on the mountain. Due to the night conditions, the optical resolution capability of the camera, and the distance of the airplane from the camera, the imagery provided only a macro view and associated timeline of the events. The airplane itself was not visible; its position was manifested by its blinking beacon or strobe lights only. The lights of the airplane first appeared in the field of view at 1830:00 and remained visible until 1830:48, when the lights disappeared behind the terrain. A large flash of light appeared at 1830:52, followed by a second, much larger and brighter flash about 3 seconds later. Lights indicative of a fire remained visible until about 1844, and the first responding aircraft (again only visible as lights) appeared about 1848.

Examination of the path of the airplane's lights on the image field of view did not reveal any erratic motions or changes of direction; the stability of the flightpath was similar to that depicted in the ground tracking radar data.

Weight and Balance Information

Maintenance records indicated that on at least 15 occasions, modifications that affected the airplane's weight and balance values were accomplished; however, no records of the actual revised weight and balance data were discovered during the investigation.

Calculations that used the original empty weight plus other known or presumed values resulted in an estimated accident flight weight of 8,953 pounds, which was below the maximum allowable weight, and a center of gravity within the allowable envelope.

Airplane Performance

The derived level-flight ground speed for the last 2 minutes of the flight was approximately 190 knots, which was slightly higher than the pilot's operating handbook maximum range speed for similar conditions. Surface wind data indicated that the airplane would have experienced a slight tailwind during the climbout and level-flight segments.

TAWS-Related Guidance for FAA Inspectors

Published FAA guidance for FAA inspectors to use to determine whether the airplane seating configuration changes (if properly accomplished) would have exempted the airplane from the TAWS requirement was examined in detail. The relevant FAA guidance included FAA Order 8900.1 and 14 CFR Part 1, Part 21, Part 43 (Appendix 1), Part 91, and Part 135.

Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) Class B Airspace Information

The Phoenix metropolitan area was designated and charted as Class B airspace, centered on PHX and the PHX VOR (PXR). The airspace elevation boundaries were defined by floor and ceiling altitudes, with lateral boundaries defined by distance and bearing from defined locations. Class B airspace is typically
described as having the shape of an "upside-down wedding cake," where the airspace floor altitudes increase as the distance from the center increases. Aircraft operating under VFR are prohibited from entering Class B airspace without explicit permission from the responsible ATC facility. Mountainous terrain rises to 4,500 feet less than 1 nm east of the 5-000-foot Class B airspace, and the terrain rises to a maximum elevation of 5,057 feet about 3 1/2 miles east.

The NTSB ATC group chairman's factual report provides detailed information regarding the Class B airspace around the Phoenix area. For more information, see the docket for this accident (NTSB case number WPR12MA046).

Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) Accidents

The FAA defines a CFIT accident as a situation that occurs when a properly functioning aircraft "is flown under the control of a qualified pilot, into terrain (water or obstacles) with inadequate awareness on the part of the pilot of the impending collision."

In 1998, the FAA formed the General Aviation (GA) CFIT Joint Safety Analysis Team (JSAT) as part of the FAA "Safer Skies" program. The stated goal of the Safer Skies initiative was to significantly reduce fatal accidents over a 10-year period via a comprehensive review of aviation accident causes and implementation of safety intervention strategies. In April 1999, the GA CFIT JSAT published its final report, which identified 55 interventions to address CFIT accident causes. The FAA CFIT Joint Safety Implementation Team (JSIT) was formed to develop detailed CFIT accident reduction strategies based upon the top 10 JSAT interventions that were considered to be the most effective and feasible. The CFIT JSIT final report was published in 2000, and JSIT recommended interventions included the following:

- Improve safety culture within the aviation community,
- Promote development and use of low-cost terrain clearance and/or look-ahead device,
- Improve pilot training regarding decision-making and human factors,
- Enhance the biennial flight review and/or instrument competency check, and
- Develop and distribute mountain flying technique advisory material.

In March 2003, as part of its response to the CFIT JSIT, the FAA issued Advisory Circular (AC) 61-134, "General Aviation Controlled Flight Into Terrain Awareness." The AC "highlights the inherent risk" that CFIT poses for GA pilots. According to the AC, one primary cause of CFIT accidents was loss of situational awareness.

Situational Awareness

The Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (FAA-H-8083-25) defined situational awareness as the "accurate perception of the operational and environmental factors that affect the airplane, pilot, and passengers during a specific period of time." The handbook stated that a situationally aware pilot "has an overview of the total operation and is not fixated on one perceived significant factor." The handbook stated that "some of the elements inside the airplane to be considered are the status of airplane systems, and also the pilot and passengers" and cautioned that "an awareness of the environmental conditions of the flight, such as spatial orientation of the airplane, and its relationship to terrain, traffic, weather, and airspace must be maintained."

The handbook stated that obstacles to maintaining situational awareness included fatigue, stress, and task overload and that a contributing factor in many accidents is a distraction that diverts the pilot's attention. Complacency was cited as another obstacle to maintaining situational awareness. When activities become routine, there is a tendency to relax and not put as much effort into performance. Like fatigue, complacency reduces a pilot's effectiveness in the cockpit. However, complacency is harder to recognize than fatigue, since everything is perceived to be progressing smoothly.

NTSB Safety Alert

In January 2008, the NTSB issued a safety alert titled "Controlled Flight Into Terrain in Visual Conditions: Nighttime Visual Flight Operations Are Resulting in Avoidable Accidents." The safety alert stated that recent investigations identified several accidents that involved CFIT by pilots operating under visual flight conditions at night in remote areas, that the pilots appeared unaware that the aircraft were in danger, and that increased altitude awareness and better preflight planning likely would have prevented the accidents.

The safety alert suggested that pilots could avoid becoming involved in a similar accident by proper preflight planning, obtaining flight route terrain familiarization via sectional charts or other topographic references, maintaining awareness of visual limitations for operations in remote areas, following instrument flight rules practices until well above surrounding terrain, advising ATC and taking action to reach a safe altitude, and employing a GPS-based terrain awareness unit.


NTSB Identification: WPR12MA046 
 Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, November 23, 2011 in Apache Junction, AZ
Aircraft: ROCKWELL 690, registration: N690SM
Injuries: 6 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On November 23, 2011, about 1831 mountain standard time, a Rockwell International (Aero Commander) 690A airplane, N690SM, was destroyed when it impacted terrain in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction, Arizona. The commercial pilot and the five passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Ponderosa Aviation, Inc. (PAI) and operated by PAI under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Night visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane had departed Falcon Field (FFZ), Mesa, Arizona, about 1825 and was destined for Safford Regional Airport (SAD), Safford, Arizona.

PAI’s director of maintenance (DOM) and the director of operations (DO), who were co owners of PAI along with the president, conducted a personal flight from SAD to FFZ. The DO flew the leg from SAD to FFZ under visual flight rules (VFR) in night VMC. After arriving at FFZ and in preparation for the flight back to SAD, the DOM moved to the left front seat to act as the pilot flying. The airplane departed FFZ about 12 minutes after it arrived. According to a witness, engine start and taxi-out appeared normal.

Review of the recorded communications between the pilot and the FFZ tower air traffic controllers revealed that when the pilot requested taxi clearance, he advised the ground controller that he was planning an "eastbound departure." The flight was cleared for takeoff on runway 4R, and the pilot was instructed to maintain runway heading until advised, due to an inbound aircraft. About 90 seconds later, when the airplane was about 1.1 miles from the departure end of the runway, the tower local controller issued a "right turn approved" advisory to the flight, which the pilot acknowledged. Radar data revealed that the airplane flew the runway heading for about 1.5 miles then began a right turn toward SAD and climbed through an altitude of about 2,600 feet mean sea level (msl). About 1828, after it momentarily climbed to an altitude of 4,700 feet, the airplane descended to an altitude of 4,500 feet, where it remained and tracked in an essentially straight line until it impacted the mountain. The last radar return was received at 1830:56 and was approximately coincident with the impact location. The impact location was near the top of a steep mountain that projected to over 5,000 feet msl. Witnesses reported seeing a fireball, and law enforcement helicopters were dispatched.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

Pilot (General Information)

The pilot, age 31, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for single-engine and multiengine land and instrument airplane. He also held a mechanic certificate with ratings for airframe and powerplant. His Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical certificate was issued in July 2011. The pilot was a co-owner of PAI and was PAI’s DOM.

The pilot's personal flight records contained entries until February 2011, at which time the pilot recorded that he had 1,151.9 hours in single-engine airplanes and 951.5 hours in multiengine airplanes. On his most recent FAA medical certificate application, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 2,500 hours.

The computerized PAI flight record (which began tracking 14 CFR Part 135 flights only in February 2011) indicated that the pilot had 116.5 hours total flight experience, including 18 hours in night VMC. According to the records, during the preceding 90 and 30 days, the pilot had accumulated about 28.5 and 5.3 flight hours, respectively. The records showed that the pilot had flown 2 hours on two different flights in the week before the accident. The most recent flight was in night VMC from SAD to FFZ and back. Examination of the flight records revealed that the pilot had flown that round trip flight at least twice, in the previous 2 weeks.

Pilot Training

According to PAI and its FAA principal operations inspector (POI), employee pilots receive annual training over a 2- to 3-day period. The chief pilot organized most of the training, which consisted of regulation review, company policy, and actual flight training. The POI observed parts of the training. According to company training records, the pilot's most recent 14 CFR Part 135 competency/proficiency check was satisfactorily completed on September 24, 2011.

Pilot’s 72-Hour History

According to the pilot’s wife, in the 3 days before and including the accident day, the pilot awoke about 0630 and left for work about 0700. Two days before the accident, he flew to FFZ, arriving back at SAD about 2145.

Relatives of the pilot stated that nothing unusual had occurred in his life in the 72-hour period before the accident. His wife reported that the pilot did not take medications, aside from a hypothyroidism medication that he had reported to the FAA, and he did not have any physical conditions or ailments aside from the hypothyroidism.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Forensic Science Center in Tucson, Arizona, conducted an autopsy on the pilot; the cause of death was cited as blunt force trauma. The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team at the Civil Aviation Medical Institute performed toxicological testing of specimens collected during the autopsy. The results of the specimens were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and listed drugs.

AIRPLANE INFORMATION

General

The airplane was manufactured in 1976 by Rockwell International, and the type certificate holder at the time of the accident was Twin Commander, LLC. The airplane was equipped with two Honeywell TPE-331-series turboshaft engines and two Hartzell three-blade propellers. Maintenance records indicated that the airframe had accumulated a total time in service of about 8,188 hours. The left engine had accumulated a total time since major overhaul of about 545 hours, and the right engine had accumulated a total time since major overhaul of about 1,482 hours.

The airplane was recently purchased by PAI and was flown about 1,200 miles from Indiana to the PAI facility at SAD about 1 week before the accident. It was certificated for single-pilot operation. At the time of the accident, the airplane was configured for a pilot (left side), a copilot (right side), and five passengers.

According to the sale advertisement listing for the airplane, the airplane was equipped with very high frequency omnirange (VOR) and GPS (KLN 90B) navigation units, a radar altimeter, and an Avidyne EX-500 multifunction display, which were destroyed in the accident.

Ferry Permit Information

At the time of purchase by PAI, the airplane was not in compliance with an FAA required 150-hour inspection requirement, and PAI requested an FAA ferry permit to fly the airplane from Eagle Creek Airpark (EYE), Indianapolis, Indiana, to the PAI facility in Safford, Arizona. On November 16, 2011, the FAA issued a ferry permit for the relocation of the airplane. The permit was valid until arrival at SAD or November 25, 2011, whichever came first. It only permitted a direct flight between EYE and SAD and only allowed the pilot and essential crew on board. The airplane was flown by the PAI president, who was the brother of the accident pilot, from EYE to SAD on November 17, 2011. The arrival at SAD terminated the ferry permit.

PAI and FAA Scottsdale Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) personnel estimated that it would normally require two people 2 days to conduct the inspection necessary to render the airplane in compliance with the outstanding airworthiness items, exclusive of correcting any identified deficiencies. All available evidence indicated that no maintenance activity was accomplished on the airplane between its arrival at SAD and its departure to FFZ on the night of the accident; the condition that warranted the ferry permit had not been corrected.

Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) Equipment Information

Title 14 CFR 91.223 stated that with certain exceptions, turbine-powered, US registered airplanes configured with six or more passenger seats and manufactured before early 2002 could not be operated after March 29, 2005, unless the airplane was equipped with an approved TAWS unit.

Since the accident airplane was manufactured in 1976 and was turbine-powered, any exclusion from the TAWS requirement required that the airplane had to be configured with five or fewer passenger seating positions. According to the type certificate holder's documentation, the airplane was manufactured and delivered with six passenger seating positions. Therefore, the airplane's as manufactured configuration required the installation of TAWS by March 2005. No records indicating that the number of passenger seating positions was ever less than six before May 2005 were located. However, a detailed review of airplane maintenance records, preaccident photographs, TAWS equipment manufacturer's data, and a detailed inventory of the recovered wreckage indicated that the accident airplane was never equipped with TAWS. (The sale advertisement information for the airplane indicated that it was equipped with a KGP-560 TAWS B unit.)

Maintenance documentation indicated that in May 2005, the airplane seating configuration was changed to reduce passenger seat provisions from six to five by removing a seat belt from the aft divan, which was originally configured with seat belts for three people. Per the requirements of 14 CFR 91.223 and the reduced passenger seat count, the airplane was not required to be equipped with TAWS.

However, FAA and manufacturer/type certificate holder guidance indicated that any seating configuration changes should be approved by either the FAA or the manufacturer/type certificate holder, and examination of the maintenance documentation for the accident airplane revealed that neither requirement had been satisfied. The seating modification was not approved by the FAA or any other agency or documented either via a supplemental type certificate and/or FAA Form 337 (Major Repair and Alteration). Postaccident review of the documentation that was used to substantiate the seating configuration change revealed that the modified seating position plan was not one of the manufacturer's/type certificate holder's approved configurations. The document that was used to substantiate the change was determined to be an altered version of the manufacturer's original document, but it was incorrectly represented as a manufacturer's original document. Attempts to determine who made the improper and unauthorized changes to the seating configuration document, or when they were made, were unsuccessful.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The FFZ 1854 automated weather observation included wind from 350 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 40 miles, few clouds at 20,000 feet, temperature 23 degrees C, dew point -1 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of Mercury. US Naval Observatory data for November 23, 2011, indicated that the moon, which was a waning crescent of 3%, set at 1605, and local sunset occurred at 1721.

AIDS TO NAVIGATION

Neither FFZ nor SAD was equipped with a VOR ground navigation facility. Navigation between the two airports via available VOR stations would result in an indirect flight route.

The flight from SAD to FFZ and the accident flight were both conducted in VMC as VFR flights. No flight plan was filed for either flight, and neither pilot had requested air traffic control (ATC) flight following services. Available radar data and interviews with PAI personnel indicated that the pilot had flown between SAD and FFZ several times previously and that he tended to use his iPad, equipped with ForeFlight software and GPS, to fly directly between the two. The software could display FAA VFR aeronautical charts (including FAA-published terrain depiction) and overlay airplane track and position data on the chart depiction. According to the pilot's brother, the pilot's habit pattern was to depart the airport, identify the track needed to fly directly to the destination, and turn the airplane onto that track. Remnants of an iPad were found in the wreckage. Damage precluded determination of its positive association with a particular owner, its functionality, or its operational status at the time of the accident.

Radar tracking data from the accident flight indicated that the airplane began its right turn on course to SAD about 1.5 miles northeast of FFZ. Comparison of the direct line track data from two different initial locations (FFZ, and northeast of FFZ after completion of the turn) to SAD revealed that while the direct track from FFZ to SAD passed about 3 miles south of the impact mountain, the direct track from northeast of FFZ to SAD overlaid the impact mountain location. That resulting ground track was also coincident with the accident flight radar data ground track.

COMMUNICATIONS

Sequence of Events

The pilot first contacted FFZ ground control at 1820:21. The pilot was instructed to taxi to runway 4R via taxiway D, and he taxied as instructed without incident. At 1823:35, the pilot contacted FFZ local control and advised that he was holding short and was ready for departure. The pilot was advised to again hold short to wait for landing traffic. At 1825:00, the controller instructed the pilot to "fly straight out" until advised due to landing traffic and cleared him for takeoff from runway 4R. The airplane became airborne at 1826:14. At 1826:47, the controller issued the "right turn approved" advisory to the pilot. At that point, the airplane was still on the runway heading, about 1.45 nautical miles (nm) from FFZ, and climbing through an altitude of about 2,200 feet. The pilot responded to the transmission with "right turn approved." No further radio transmissions to or from the accident pilot were recorded.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

General

FFZ was equipped with two runways designated 4/22 L and R. The airplane's arrival and departure runway (4R) measured 5,101 feet by 100 feet. Airport elevation was 1,394 feet msl. The local topography consisted of a flat basin floor bounded by mountainous terrain, primarily to the north and east. FFZ was situated about 15 miles west-northwest of the impact mountain, which rose very steeply to a charted maximum elevation of 5,057 feet msl, or about 3,700 feet above FFZ.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Accident Site

The accident site was on the northwest face near the top of the Flatiron region of Superstition Mountain. The accident site consisted of two basic terrain areas: a sloped area (about 45 degrees downhill to the northwest), abutted by a vertical rock formation on its southeast side.

The sloped area was primarily rock, interlaced with cracks, soil patches, boulders, and sparse vegetation. The rock formation rose about 100 feet above the southeastern edge of the sloped area. Airplane debris was scattered on the sloped area in a primary field that measured about 150 feet southeast-northwest by about 80 feet northeast-southwest. A significant amount of debris was clustered near the base of the vertical face, with some debris strewn or caught on the face. The southeast section of the sloped area and much of the vertical face were fire damaged, soot covered, or scorched. The northwest edge of the sloped debris field was about 150 feet southeast of the end of the sloped terrain, which then became very steep (sometimes near vertical) and fell irregularly away to the valley floor about 3,000 feet below.

On-Site Wreckage Observations

The impact site was located on steep rocky terrain at an elevation of about 4,500 feet msl that was essentially only accessible by helicopter. The wreckage was recovered by helicopter and transported to a secure facility for subsequent detailed examination.

The airplane was highly fragmented. The debris pattern axis was oriented northwest to southeast, and the debris and fire damage were arrayed in a fan-like pattern consistent with the approximate flight direction. Most airplane components were severely impact and fire-damaged. Some debris (heavier/denser items, such as engine gearbox components and generators) was found northwest (downhill) of the main debris field, consistent with those components rolling downhill after impact. The largest wreckage section was a portion of an inboard wing box with one engine attached. Paint transfer marks on the rock face were consistent with a wings-level (roll axis) impact.

Both engines and portions of their propellers were identified in the wreckage. Propeller, engine, and gearbox damage was consistent with high power rotation at impact. All three landing gear were identified in the wreckage, and damage patterns were consistent with the landing gear being retracted at impact. Some airplane skin segments exhibited significant accordion-like crush damage. Many cockpit-related items, including instruments, instrument panel sections, and pilots' seat fragments, were found on the terrain beyond the vertical rock formation; some were several hundred feet beyond the vertical rock formation.

Damage patterns were consistent with the engines developing power at the time of impact. The majority of the first-stage compressor impeller blades were separated at the hubs. The second-stage compressor impeller blades were bent opposite the direction of rotation. There was rotational scoring on the aft side of the third-stage turbine blade platforms and metal spray deposits on the suction side of the third-stage turbine blades. No preimpact discrepancies that would have precluded normal engine operation were identified.

The blade damage to both propellers was severe, with leading-edge damage, multiple bends, twisting, concave bending of the blade chord at the tips, and tips that had fractured and separated. Two separate blade angle witness marks were each consistent with impact while at a normal (not in feather and not in reverse) operating position. No preimpact discrepancies that would have precluded normal propeller operation were identified.

ORGANIZATIONAL AND MANAGEMENT INFORMATION

Ponderosa Aviation, Inc.

PAI was founded in 1975 by the pilot-rated passenger’s father. Later, the pilot and his brother purchased the company, and, in January 2011, the pilot-rated passenger, who had worked there for many years, bought into a partnership with them.

At the time of the accident, PAI, which was based at SAD, employed 25 people, including 13 pilots (10 on a seasonal/part-time basis) and 9 maintenance personnel. PAI owned a total of 14 airplanes, including the accident airplane. The fleet included three Rockwell International (Aero Commander) 690 models and nine 500 models.

PAI held a 14 CFR Part 135 operating certificate for on-demand air carrier operations in the contiguous United States and the District of Columbia. However, PAI rarely exercised the privileges of that certificate and averaged about two revenue passenger transport flights per year. PAI's primary purpose for obtaining and maintaining the certificate was to be qualified to contract with the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for air attack missions (the application of aerial resources, by both fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft, on a fire).

Eight of the PAI airplanes were on the 14 CFR Part 135 certificate; the accident airplane had not yet been added to the certificate.

FAA Oversight

The FAA FSDO in Scottsdale, Arizona, was the assigned certificate-holding district office for PAI and oversaw about 60 Part 135 certificated operators, no Part 121 certificated operators, and about 520 Part 91 operators.

The POI was assigned to PAI in 2007. Her duties included oversight of 12 designees and 30 check airmen and POI for 54 operators. PAI was one of 10 Part 135 operators assigned to the POI. She estimated that she had about 100 hours in Rockwell International/Aero Commander airplanes, 25 of which were in the 690 model. The POI considered PAI to be a "low-maintenance operator," meaning that PAI was compliant with FAA requirements and presented few issues of concern. She physically visited PAI about once per year. Due to the distance between the FSDO and SAD, she never made unannounced visits. Her visits would take about 2 days, during which she would oversee pilot training, examine records and recordkeeping, and conduct base inspections and ramp checks. She never gave checkrides to PAI pilots; those were conducted by another inspector. The POI qualified the pilot-rated passenger as a "good" chief pilot. He was the person at PAI with whom the POI had the most contact, and she would mainly communicate her concerns and questions to him. She did not have much familiarity with the pilot.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Homeowner's Surveillance Camera Imagery

The airplane’s preimpact flightpath, impact explosion, postimpact fire, and initial arrival of search and rescue aircraft were captured on a private citizen's home surveillance camera. That camera was located about 6 miles south of and 3,700 feet lower than the impact site. A file that contained about 50 minutes of image data, during the period from about 1810 to 1900, was provided to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The time stamp data was provided by the camera owner and was not independently correlated or verified by the NTSB; therefore, all times are approximate.

The 1810 image depicted the mountain in silhouette form, but as night fell, the mountain disappeared from the image. No lights were visible on the mountain. Due to the night conditions, the optical resolution capability of the camera, and the distance of the airplane from the camera, the imagery provided only a macro view and associated timeline of the events. The airplane itself was not visible; its position was manifested by its blinking beacon or strobe lights only. The lights of the airplane first appeared in the field of view at 1830:00 and remained visible until 1830:48, when the lights disappeared behind the terrain. A large flash of light appeared at 1830:52, followed by a second, much larger and brighter flash about 3 seconds later. Lights indicative of a fire remained visible until about 1844, and the first responding aircraft (again only visible as lights) appeared about 1848.

Examination of the path of the airplane's lights on the image field of view did not reveal any erratic motions or changes of direction; the stability of the flightpath was similar to that depicted in the ground tracking radar data.

Weight and Balance Information

Maintenance records indicated that on at least 15 occasions, modifications that affected the airplane's weight and balance values were accomplished; however, no records of the actual revised weight and balance data were discovered during the investigation.

Calculations that used the original empty weight plus other known or presumed values resulted in an estimated accident flight weight of 8,953 pounds, which was below the maximum allowable weight, and a center of gravity within the allowable envelope.

Airplane Performance

The derived level-flight ground speed for the last 2 minutes of the flight was approximately 190 knots, which was slightly higher than the pilot’s operating handbook maximum range speed for similar conditions. Surface wind data indicated that the airplane would have experienced a slight tailwind during the climbout and level-flight segments.

TAWS-Related Guidance for FAA Inspectors

Published FAA guidance for FAA inspectors to use to determine whether the airplane seating configuration changes (if properly accomplished) would have exempted the airplane from the TAWS requirement was examined in detail. The relevant FAA guidance included FAA Order 8900.1 and 14 CFR Part 1, Part 21, Part 43 (Appendix 1), Part 91, and Part 135.

Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) Class B Airspace Information

The Phoenix metropolitan area was designated and charted as Class B airspace, centered on PHX and the PHX VOR (PXR). The airspace elevation boundaries were defined by floor and ceiling altitudes, with lateral boundaries defined by distance and bearing from defined locations. Class B airspace is typically described as having the shape of an "upside-down wedding cake," where the airspace floor altitudes increase as the distance from the center increases. Aircraft operating under VFR are prohibited from entering Class B airspace without explicit permission from the responsible ATC facility. Mountainous terrain rises to 4,500 feet less than 1 nm east of the 5-000-foot Class B airspace, and the terrain rises to a maximum elevation of 5,057 feet about 3 1/2 miles east.

The NTSB ATC group chairman's factual report provides detailed information regarding the Class B airspace around the Phoenix area. For more information, see the docket for this accident (NTSB case number WPR12MA046).

Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) Accidents

The FAA defines a CFIT accident as a situation that occurs when a properly functioning aircraft "is flown under the control of a qualified pilot, into terrain (water or obstacles) with inadequate awareness on the part of the pilot of the impending collision."

In 1998, the FAA formed the General Aviation (GA) CFIT Joint Safety Analysis Team (JSAT) as part of the FAA "Safer Skies" program. The stated goal of the Safer Skies initiative was to significantly reduce fatal accidents over a 10-year period via a comprehensive review of aviation accident causes and implementation of safety intervention strategies. In April 1999, the GA CFIT JSAT published its final report, which identified 55 interventions to address CFIT accident causes. The FAA CFIT Joint Safety Implementation Team (JSIT) was formed to develop detailed CFIT accident reduction strategies based upon the top 10 JSAT interventions that were considered to be the most effective and feasible. The CFIT JSIT final report was published in 2000, and JSIT recommended interventions included the following:

- Improve safety culture within the aviation community,
- Promote development and use of low-cost terrain clearance and/or look-ahead device,
- Improve pilot training regarding decision-making and human factors,
- Enhance the biennial flight review and/or instrument competency check, and
- Develop and distribute mountain flying technique advisory material.

In March 2003, as part of its response to the CFIT JSIT, the FAA issued Advisory Circular (AC) 61-134, "General Aviation Controlled Flight Into Terrain Awareness." The AC "highlights the inherent risk" that CFIT poses for GA pilots. According to the AC, one primary cause of CFIT accidents was loss of situational awareness.

Situational Awareness

The Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (FAA-H-8083-25) defined situational awareness as the "accurate perception of the operational and environmental factors that affect the airplane, pilot, and passengers during a specific period of time." The handbook stated that a situationally aware pilot "has an overview of the total operation and is not fixated on one perceived significant factor." The handbook stated that "some of the elements inside the airplane to be considered are the status of airplane systems, and also the pilot and passengers" and cautioned that "an awareness of the environmental conditions of the flight, such as spatial orientation of the airplane, and its relationship to terrain, traffic, weather, and airspace must be maintained."

The handbook stated that obstacles to maintaining situational awareness included fatigue, stress, and task overload and that a contributing factor in many accidents is a distraction that diverts the pilot’s attention. Complacency was cited as another obstacle to maintaining situational awareness. When activities become routine, there is a tendency to relax and not put as much effort into performance. Like fatigue, complacency reduces a pilot’s effectiveness in the cockpit. However, complacency is harder to recognize than fatigue, since everything is perceived to be progressing smoothly.

NTSB Safety Alert

In January 2008, the NTSB issued a safety alert titled "Controlled Flight Into Terrain in Visual Conditions: Nighttime Visual Flight Operations Are Resulting in Avoidable Accidents." The safety alert stated that recent investigations identified several accidents that involved CFIT by pilots operating under visual flight conditions at night in remote areas, that the pilots appeared unaware that the aircraft were in danger, and that increased altitude awareness and better preflight planning likely would have prevented the accidents.

The safety alert suggested that pilots could avoid becoming involved in a similar accident by proper preflight planning, obtaining flight route terrain familiarization via sectional charts or other topographic references, maintaining awareness of visual limitations for operations in remote areas, following instrument flight rules practices until well above surrounding terrain, advising ATC and taking action to reach a safe altitude, and employing a GPS-based terrain awareness unit.

 =========


NTSB Identification: WPR12MA046 
 Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, November 23, 2011 in Apache Junction, AZ
Aircraft: ROCKWELL 690, registration: N690SM
Injuries: 6 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.


On November 23, 2011, about 1831 mountain standard time (MST), a Rockwell International 690A, N690SM, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction, Arizona, about 5 minutes after takeoff from Falcon Field (FFZ), Mesa, Arizona. The certificated commercial pilot and the five passengers, who included two adults and three children, were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Ponderosa Aviation, which held a Part 135 operating certificate, and which was based at Safford Regional Airport (SAD), Safford, Arizona. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed.

According to several witnesses, the children's father, who was a co-owner of Ponderosa Aviation and who lived near SAD, regularly used the operator's airplanes to transport the children, who lived near FFZ, between FFZ and SAD or vice versa. According to a fixed base operation (FBO) line serviceman who was familiar with the children and their father, on the night of the accident, the children arrived at FFZ about 15 minutes before the airplane arrived. The airplane was marshaled into a parking spot adjacent to the FBO building; it was already dark. The father was seated in the front left seat and operating the airplane, and another individual was in the front right seat. After shutdown, the father and a third individual, whom the line serviceman had not seen before, exited the airplane. The individual in the front right seat did not exit the airplane; he remained in the cockpit with a flashlight, accomplishing unknown tasks, and subsequently repositioned himself to the front left seat.

The father went into the FBO to escort the children to the airplane. The father, three children and the third individual returned to the airplane. The individual in the front left seat remained in that seat, the third individual seated himself in the front right seat, and the father and three children situated themselves in the rear of the airplane. Engine start and taxi-out appeared normal to the line serviceman, who marshaled the airplane out of its parking spot.

Review of the recorded communications between the airplane and the FFZ air traffic control tower (ATCT) revealed that when the pilot requested taxi clearance, he advised the ground controller that he was planning an "eastbound departure." The flight was cleared for takeoff on runway 4R, and was instructed to maintain runway heading until advised, due to an inbound aircraft. About 90 seconds later, the ATCT local controller issued a "right turn approved" clearance to the flight. Review of the preliminary ground-based radar tracking data revealed that the takeoff roll began about 1826 MST, and the airplane began its right turn towards SAD when it was about 2 miles east of FFZ, and climbing through an altitude of about 2,600 feet above mean sea level (msl). About 1828, the airplane reached an altitude of 4,500 feet msl, where it remained, and tracked in an essentially straight line, until it impacted the terrain. The last radar return was received at 1830:56, and was approximately coincident with the impact location. The airplane's transponder was transmitting on a code of 1200 for the entire flight.

The impact site was located on steep rocky terrain, at an elevation of about 4,650 feet, approximately 150 feet below the top of the local peak. Ground scars were consistent with impact in a wings-level attitude. Terrain conditions, and impact- and fire-damage precluded a thorough on-site wreckage examination. All six propeller blades, both engines, and most major flight control surfaces were identified in the wreckage. Propeller and engine damage signatures were consistent with the engines developing power at the time of impact. The wreckage was recovered to a secure facility, where it will be examined in detail.

According to the operator's and FAA records, the pilot had approximately 2,500 total hours of flight experience. He held multiple certificates and ratings, including a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument-airplane ratings. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in July 2011, and his most recent flight review was completed in September 2011.

According to FAA information, the airplane was manufactured in 1976, and was equipped with two Honeywell TPE-331 series turboshaft engines. The airplane was recently purchased by the operator, and was flown from Indiana to the operator's base in Arizona about 1 week prior to the accident. The airframe had accumulated a total time in service (TT) of approximately 8,188 hours. The left engine had accumulated a TT since major overhaul (SMOH) of about 545 hours, and the right engine had accumulated a TTSMOH of 1,482 hours.

The FFZ 1854 automated weather observation included winds from 350 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 40 miles; few clouds at 20,000 feet; temperature 23 degrees C; dew point -1 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of mercury. U.S. Naval Observatory data for November 23 indicated that the moon, which was a waning crescent of 3 percent, set at 1605, and local sunset occurred at 1721.



APACHE JUNCTION, AZ - After reviewing the NTSB's preliminary report from the deadly plane crash in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains the night before Thanksgiving, a seasoned pilot has lots of questions.

The co-pilot, Shawn Perry of Safford, was on the plane with his three children identified as 9-year-old Morgan Perry, 8-year-old Logan Perry, and 6-year-old Luke Perry of Gold Canyon.

They were on their way to celebrate Thanksgiving in Safford.

Shawn Perry's co-pilot and partial owner of the plane was identified as Russell Hardy, 31, from Thatcher.

The sixth victim on the plane was identified as Joseph Hardwick, 22, of Safford, a pilot mechanic.

Seasoned pilot Stan Craig said the pieces just don't add up. "It's really a mystery to me why he would level off at 45-hundred. I just don't understand that. Why did he stop at 45 hundred feet and why didn't somebody say something to him?" Craig said.

According to the report the plane was on a level flight when it slammed into the mountainside about five minutes after takeoff.  The report indicates there was nothing obviously wrong with the plane.  It appears both engines were working.
 
It shows the tower was in communication with the pilot before take off and 90 seconds into the flight, but the report does not list a detailed pilot-to tower communication log.

"The tower communications I think would be better than that. It's like that whole section is missing. I would like to see who was talking to him, you know. What was going on?" Craig said.

He feels the pilot would have known to fly at a much greater altitude, and wonders if he was under an order to fly low.  

"Why didn't somebody tell them they are too low? Why wasn't someone talking to them if they had them on radar?"

He suspects the crash could stem from a lapse in the tower.

"It could be,” he said “Very, very easily. I am not saying it is, but it very well could be. They could have been busy at that time, and lost track of the flight."

They are questions that could take months or even years to answer, as NTSB investigators piece together tragic events before issuing a final report.

Funeral services for crash victims will be held in Gold Canyon Friday.

NTSB Identification: WPR12FA046
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, November 23, 2011 in Apache Junction, AZ
Aircraft: ROCKWELL 690, registration: N690SM
Injuries: 6 Fatal.


This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On November 23, 2011, about 1831 mountain standard time (MST), a Rockwell International 690A, N690SM, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction, Arizona, about 5 minutes after takeoff from Falcon Field (FFZ), Mesa, Arizona. The certificated commercial pilot and the five passengers, who included two adults and three children, were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Ponderosa Aviation, which held a Part 135 operating certificate, and which was based at Safford Regional Airport (SAD), Safford, Arizona. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed.

According to several witnesses, the children's father, who was a co-owner of Ponderosa Aviation and who lived near SAD, regularly used the operator's airplanes to transport the children, who lived near FFZ, between FFZ and SAD or vice versa. According to a fixed base operation (FBO) line serviceman who was familiar with the children and their father, on the night of the accident, the children arrived at FFZ about 15 minutes before the airplane arrived. The airplane was marshaled into a parking spot adjacent to the FBO building; it was already dark. The father was seated in the front left seat and operating the airplane, and another individual was in the front right seat. After shutdown, the father and a third individual, whom the line serviceman had not seen before, exited the airplane. The individual in the front right seat did not exit the airplane; he remained in the cockpit with a flashlight, accomplishing unknown tasks, and subsequently repositioned himself to the front left seat.

The father went into the FBO to escort the children to the airplane. The father, three children and the third individual returned to the airplane. The individual in the front left seat remained in that seat, the third individual seated himself in the front right seat, and the father and three children situated themselves in the rear of the airplane. Engine start and taxi-out appeared normal to the line serviceman, who marshaled the airplane out of its parking spot.

Review of the recorded communications between the airplane and the FFZ air traffic control tower (ATCT) revealed that when the pilot requested taxi clearance, he advised the ground controller that he was planning an "eastbound departure." The flight was cleared for takeoff on runway 4R, and was instructed to maintain runway heading until advised, due to an inbound aircraft. About 90 seconds later, the ATCT local controller issued a "right turn approved" clearance to the flight. Review of the preliminary ground-based radar tracking data revealed that the takeoff roll began about 1826 MST, and the airplane began its right turn towards SAD when it was about 2 miles east of FFZ, and climbing through an altitude of about 2,600 feet above mean sea level (msl). About 1828, the airplane reached an altitude of 4,500 feet msl, where it remained, and tracked in an essentially straight line, until it impacted the terrain. The last radar return was received at 1830:56, and was approximately coincident with the impact location. The airplane's transponder was transmitting on a code of 1200 for the entire flight.

The impact site was located on steep rocky terrain, at an elevation of about 4,650 feet, approximately 150 feet below the top of the local peak. Ground scars were consistent with impact in a wings-level attitude. Terrain conditions, and impact- and fire-damage precluded a thorough on-site wreckage examination. All six propeller blades, both engines, and most major flight control surfaces were identified in the wreckage. Propeller and engine damage signatures were consistent with the engines developing power at the time of impact. The wreckage was recovered to a secure facility, where it will be examined in detail.

According to the operator's and FAA records, the pilot had approximately 2,500 total hours of flight experience. He held multiple certificates and ratings, including a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument-airplane ratings. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in July 2011, and his most recent flight review was completed in September 2011.

According to FAA information, the airplane was manufactured in 1976, and was equipped with two Honeywell TPE-331 series turboshaft engines. The airplane was recently purchased by the operator, and was flown from Indiana to the operator's base in Arizona about 1 week prior to the accident. The airframe had accumulated a total time in service (TT) of approximately 8,188 hours. The left engine had accumulated a TT since major overhaul (SMOH) of about 545 hours, and the right engine had accumulated a TTSMOH of 1,482 hours.

The FFZ 1854 automated weather observation included winds from 350 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 40 miles; few clouds at 20,000 feet; temperature 23 degrees C; dew point -1 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of mercury. U.S. Naval Observatory data for November 23 indicated that the moon, which was a waning crescent of 3 percent, set at 1605, and local sunset occurred at 1721.