Monday, August 13, 2012

Cessna S550 Citation, N50BK -- My Plane Crash With Bob Arum: Sportswriter Recalls Scary Scene 10 Years Later - Accident occurred August 13, 2002 at Big Bear City Airport L35, California

Monday, August 13, 2012 6:27 pm 
Written by: Kevin Iole

In more than 30 years as a journalist, I've been called clueless more times than I can imagine. It's an occupational hazard, I guess.

But, at least for a while on a brilliant summer morning 10 years ago in Big Bear Lake, Calif., I truly was clueless, and, I'll admit now, happily, blissfully so.

That day, I was one of five passengers on a Cessna Citation 550 jet that left Las Vegas bound for Big Bear, where that afternoon Oscar De La Hoya would host a media gathering to promote his Sept. 14, 2002, bout with archrival Fernando Vargas.

Then, as now, I was a combat sports writer. I was working for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and had traveled with colleague Royce Feour, promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank and Mandalay Bay executives Scott Voeller and H.C. Rowe to De La Hoya's workout.

As we were making the final descent, Feour, seated at my left, remarked how we were right on time. We were scheduled to land at 11:15 a.m. I checked my watch and it was 11:14. We were at the top of the trees and would touch down within seconds.

I turned to Feour, intending to answer him, but I never got the chance. Feour and I were facing the back of the plane. Voeller was sitting on the other side of the aisle from me, facing forward, directly in front of Feour.

As I was about to respond to Feour, Voeller shouted, "Hang on! We're going down!"

The next thing I remember was a hard crash. Then there was a series of very rough bumps, and then a second, very hard crash. The force of that second jolt threw me to my right and I banged my head on the wall on the side of the plane.

I gripped the arms of my seat tightly and hung on in an attempt to keep my balance.

And then, suddenly, we were stopped and things started happening quickly.

 When we had taken off, Feour had difficulty getting his seat belt to tighten properly. It was very loose, and so when we landed, Feour was moving around the plane far more than anyone else.

When the plane stopped, Feour was leaning across the aisle, his head touching my leg.
This is where being clueless benefitted me. I hadn't realized we had wrecked and would suddenly become mini-celebrities for having survived a plane crash.

I just thought it was a rough landing and that the pilot wasn't particularly good. You just don't survive plane wrecks, and so I never gave a thought to the fact that we had, indeed, just crashed.

As soon as we came to a standstill, the first thought that had come to mind was why Feour hadn't moved back to his seat. But before I could process that information, Voeller shouted again. The urgency and intensity in his voice grabbed my attention instantly.

"Get off the plane!" he shouted. "The wings are on fire."

Read more and photos:

NTSB Identification: LAX02LA252. 
 The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Tuesday, August 13, 2002 in Big Bear City, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/02/2004
Aircraft: Cessna S550, registration: N50BK
Injuries: 7 Uninjured.

On a final approach to runway 26 the flight crew was advised by a flight instructor in the traffic pattern that a wind shear condition existed about one-quarter of the way down the approach end of the runway, which the flight crew acknowledged. On a three mile final approach the flight crew was advised by the instructor that the automated weather observation system (AWOS) was reporting the winds were 060 degrees at 8 knots, and that he was changing runways to runway 08. The flight crew did not acknowledge this transmission. The captain said that after landing smoothly in the touchdown zone on Runway 26, he applied normal braking without any response. He maintained brake pedal pressure and activated the engine thrust reversers without any response. The copilot said he considered the approach normal and that the captain did all he could to stop the airplane, first applying the brakes and then pulling up on the thrust reversers twice, with no sensation of slowing at all. Considering the double malfunction and the mountainous terrain surrounding the airport, the captain elected not to go around. The aircraft subsequently overran the end of the 5,860 foot runway (5,260 feet usable due to the 600 displaced threshold), went through the airport boundary fence, across the perimeter road, and came to rest upright in a dry lakebed approximately 400 feet from the departure end of the runway. With the aircraft on fire, the five passengers and two crew members safely egressed the aircraft without injuries before it was consumed. Witnesses to the landing reported the aircraft touched down at midfield, was too fast, porpoised, and was bouncing trying to get the gear on the runway. Passengers recalled a very hard landing, being thrown about the cabin, and that the speed was excessive. One passenger stated there was a hard bang and a series of smaller bangs during the landing. Federal Aviation Regulations allowed 3,150 feet of runway for a full stop landing. Under the weather conditions reported just after the mishap, and using the anticipated landing weight from the load manifest (12,172.5 pounds), the FAA approved Cessna Flight Manual does not provide landing distance information. Post-accident examination and testing of various wheel brake and antiskid/power brake components revealed no anomalies which would have precluded normal operations.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to obtain the proper touchdown point which resulted in an overrun. Contributing factors were the pilot's improper in-flight planning, improper use of performance data, the tailwind condition, failure to perform a go-around, and the pilot-induced porpoising condition.

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