Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beechcraft B200 Super King Air, Weatherbell Aviation LLC, N500VA: Aircraft landed gear up - Martinsville, Virginia

  Regis#: 500VA        Make/Model: BE20      Description: 200 SUPER KING AIR
  Date: 07/22/2012     Time: 0435

  Event Type: Incident   Highest Injury: None     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Minor

  City: MARTINSVILLE   State: VA   Country: US


INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   0
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Pass:   0     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    

  Activity: Unknown      Phase: Landing      Operation: OTHER

  FAA FSDO: RICHMOND, VA  (EA21)                  Entry date: 07/23/2012 

HENRY COUNTY, VA --  Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell says they didn't know anything was wrong until they touched down.  He was in the co-pilot's seat

"Once we got on the ground, we knew the wheels weren't down because sparks and flames spewed out and we started sliding

Campbell, a pilot himself, was just along for the ride on this trip.

The pilot put the plane down on its belly, where it slide several hundred yards out into the grass.  The propellers are mangled from hitting the ground.  All seven people on board walked away without injuries.

Campbell is down playing the seriousness of this close call.

"It sounds like a big deal, but really in mind it wasn't.  Everybody was fine.  That's the main thing.  Nobody was hurt,” said Campbell.

Airport Manager Jason Davis let us walk up to the plane.  While I couldn't take pictures that close, I could see that there's virtually no damage to the plane other than what you can see to the propellers.

The plane is a Beechcraft King Air B200, the same plane that killed 10 members of the Hendrick's family and staff in the 2004 plane crash.  They were also headed to the Blue Ridge Airport.

"It's just ironic.  The Beechcraft Kings Air is one of the best airplanes ever made.  There are a lot of them in the air.  They're a very reliable airplane.  In this case, it held up well,” said Campbell.

Campbell maintains that it's just a coincidence.  He says he pilots his kings air for about 200 hours a year and has never had a problem in one.

Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell admits someone else may have been scared if his or her private plane’s landing gear malfunctioned and the plane landed on its belly early Sunday like his did.

His racing background may have helped him handle the situation better than other people, he acknowledged.

“I’ve got to say, I wasn’t (nervous),” Campbell said.

Thirty-six hours later, he was just thankful no one was hurt.

“I’m fine,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened, but the main thing is everybody got out safely. There were no injuries. You know, we can fix airplanes all day long, but human life is a different story.”

Campbell’s Beachcraft King Air B200 was forced to land at Blue Ridge Regional Airport in Spencer on the base of its fuselage after its landing gear malfunctioned on a flight from Ohio, according to a Virginia State Police report. The incident occurred at 12:15 a.m.

The aircraft has a wingspan of 54-feet, 6-inches and the capacity for 13 passengers. Sunday morning, the plane had seven people on it — Campbell, the pilot and five members of his racing crew.

Campbell said he thought the plane’s landing without landing gear was almost uneventful, noting that he wasn’t even shaken from his seat despite only wearing a lap belt at the time.

He was riding up front with pilot Garry Edwin Casey of Lexington, N.C. Campbell wasn’t paying much attention to what Casey was doing because Campbell’s role was to search for the runway lights.

“We didn’t even know it was going to happen until it was already on the ground doing it,” he added.

Once the plane touched down, it was apparent to Campbell that there was no landing gear beneath them and that the gear had malfunctioned.

“First the belly touched, and then the propellers started striking. Just picture a fan hitting something, so you’ve got that rapid succession popping. And sparks started flying and flames started shooting. Obviously, we knew what was going on,” he said.

The plane skidded down part of the runway and eventually came to a stop in the grass at the end of the runway. No one in the plane was hurt, according to a police report.

“It was a beautiful landing,” Campbell said. “Had the gear been where it needed to be, it would have been perfect. Landing on the belly like that, it was not a violent hit.”

Campbell is an instrument and multi-engine rated pilot and usually does most of his flying, which he estimates at about 200 hours a year. But the Henry County native was returning after racing in the Jegs 150 K&N Pro Series auto race Saturday night at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway in Columbus. He said he thought it better that he not fly himself back after racing.

The pilot, Casey, is certified as an airline transport pilot, according to FAA records, meaning he is certified to fly commercial planes for airline companies.

And despite Campbell’s report of seeing flames, the way the plane landed — although not very common — actually is not very dangerous, said Jason Davis, managing director of the Blue Ridge Regional Airport.

“The airplane is a pretty resilient piece of equipment,” Davis said. “It’s manufactured and engineered to withstand that type of landing and keep the fuselage intact, and it worked beautifully. (There was) no damage to the fuselage itself. The tube is completely intact. It’s not even bent.”

Virginia State Police Sgt. J.M. Phillippi said Sunday the plane sustained damage to the undercarriage, wings and propellers.

Campbell does not have an estimate on the damage, but said an adjuster is coming Wednesday to provide that estimate. Campbell also said a crew of people will be looking at the plane today to assess what will need to be done to fix it.

Once the plane touched down, Casey called Greensboro Approach to cancel its IFA flight plan, which Campbell said is normal procedure. Emergency personnel arrived promptly after that.

Davis said he appreciated the responders’ promptness and professionalism.

Davis was not at Blue Ridge Regional Airport on Saturday night.

“The airport doesn’t close, but we stop manning (the facility) at 5 o’clock (p.m.),” Davis said.

Davis said he coordinated that effort to remove the plane Monday with its manufacturer, and brought in Atlantic Aero out of Greensboro to help remove the plane Monday from its resting point.

“There’s an actual lifting procedure and strap procedure in place that you have to use per the manufacturer’s specs,” Davis said. “That’s what we did. And because it’s a pressurized vessel, you’re not lifting up a concrete pipe, so there are certain places that you can’t pull or put weight on.”

The FAA was contacted and arrived Monday to continue the investigation into the cause of the crash, according to a police report.

“Depending on what we’ve found, if it’s only minor damage, FAA will investigate what happened,” FAA spokesman Jim Peters said. “If there is substantial damage, or the injury to the pilot is more than just minor, than we turn it over to the National Transportation Safety Board for investigation.”

Peters said the FAA will check “that the plane is properly registered, that it has what we call an airworthiness certificate, the pilot is properly licensed, his medical certification is current. I don’t think that’s going to rise to this level. I mean: Gear up landing — it happens.”

The plane is registered to Weatherbell Aviation LLC in Ridgeway, Sgt. Robert Carpentieri with the Virginia State Police stated in a news release.