Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beechcraft B100 King Air, N499SW: Accident occurred December 18, 2012 in Libby, Montana

NTSB Identification: WPR13FA073 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 19, 2012 in Libby, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/04/2015
Aircraft: BEECH B100, registration: N499SW
Injuries: 2 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.

When the flight was about 7 miles from the airport and approaching it from the south in dark night conditions, the noncertificated pilot canceled the instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. A police officer who was on patrol in the local area reported that he observed a twin-engine airplane come out of the clouds about 500 ft above ground level and then bank left over the town, which was north of the airport. The airplane then turned left and re-entered the clouds. The officer went to the airport to investigate, but he did not see the airplane. He reported that it was dark, but clear, at the airport and that he could see stars; there was snow on the ground. He also observed that the rotating beacon was illuminated but that the pilot-controlled runway lighting was not. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert notice, and the wreckage was located about 7 hours later 2 miles north of the airport. The airplane had collided with several trees on downsloping terrain; the debris path was about 290 ft long. Postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The town and airport were located within a sparsely populated area that had limited lighting conditions, which, along with the clouds and 35 percent moon illumination, would have restricted the pilot’s visual references. These conditions likely led to his being geographically disoriented (lost) and his subsequent failure to maintain sufficient altitude to clear terrain. Although the pilot did not possess a valid pilot’s certificate, a review of his logbooks indicated that he had considerable experience flying the airplane, usually while accompanied by another pilot, and that he had flown in both visual and IFR conditions. A previous student pilot medical certificate indicated that the pilot was color blind and listed limitations for flying at night and for using color signals. The pilot had applied for another student pilot certificate 2 months before the accident, but this certificate was deferred pending a medical review.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The noncertificated pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering to land in dark night conditions likely due to his geographic disorientation (lost). Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s improper decision to fly at night with a known visual limitation.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On December 19, 2012, about 0002 mountain standard time (MST), a Beech B100, N499SW, collided with trees near Libby, Montana. Stinger Welding was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The non-certificated pilot and one passenger sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed from impact forces. The cross-country personal flight departed Coolidge, Arizona, about 2025 MST with Libby as the planned destination. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the nearest official reporting station, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the pilot had been cleared for the GPS-A instrument approach procedure for the Libby Airport (S59), which was located 7 nm south-southeast of Libby. The pilot acknowledged that clearance at 2353. At 2359, the airplane target was about 7 miles south of the airport; the pilot reported the field in sight, and cancelled the IFR flight plan. Recorded radar data indicated that the airplane was at a Mode C altitude of 11,700 feet mean sea level at that time, and the beacon code changed from 6057 to 1200.

A track obtained from the FilghtAware internet site indicated a target at 2320 at 26,000 feet that was heading in the direction of Libby. The target began a descent at 2340:65. At 2359:10, and 11,700 feet mode C altitude, the beacon code changed to 1200. The target continued to descend, and crossed the Libby Airport, elevation 2,601 feet, at 0000:46 at 8,300 feet. The track continued north; the last target was at 0001:58 and a Mode C altitude of 5,000 feet; this was about 3 miles south of Libby and over 4 miles north of the airport.

A police officer reported that he observed a twin-engine airplane come out of the clouds over the city of Libby about 500 feet above ground level. It turned left, and went back into the clouds. The officer thought that it was probably going to the airport; he went to the airport to investigate, but observed no airplane. It was dark, but clear, at the airport with about 3 inches of snow on the ground, and he could see stars. He also observed that the rotating beacon was illuminated, but not the pilot controlled runway lighting. He listened for an airplane, but heard nothing.

When the pilot did not appear at a company function at midday on December 18, they reported him overdue. The Prescott, Arizona, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) issued an alert notice (ALNOT) at 1102 MST; the wreckage was located at 1835.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

A review of FAA medical records revealed that the 54-year-old pilot first applied for an Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate in August 2004. On that Medical Certification Application, the pilot reported having 500 hours total time with 200 hours in the previous 6 months. No alcohol or medication usage was reported; however, the pilot was determined to be red/green color blind.

On June 9, 2010, the pilot reported on an application for an Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate that he had 925 hours total time with 150 hours in the previous 6 months. He was issued a third-class medical certificate that was deemed not valid for night flying or using color signal control.

On May 16, 2012, the pilot received a driving while intoxicated (DWI) citation in Libby.

The pilot reported on an application for an Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate dated October 16, 2012, that he had a total time of 980 hours with 235 hours logged in the previous 6 months. Item 52 for color vision indicated fail. This application reported a new diagnosis of hypertension, and use of medications to control it. This application reported yes in item 17 (v) for history of arrest of conviction for driving while intoxicated. The FAA deferred the issuance of the Student Pilot and Medical Certificate, indicating that they were investigating a failure to report within 60 days the alcohol-related motor vehicle action that occurred in Montana on May 16, 2012. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) reviewed copies of the pilot's logbooks beginning on March 21, 2010, and ending November 4, 2012. The entries indicated a total time of 978 hours during that time period. Time logged for the 90 days prior to the accident was 34 hours. The logbooks recorded numerous trips to Libby with three entries in the previous 90 days. The last solo flight endorsement, in a Cessna 340, was signed off by a certified flight instructor in August 2011. The logbook contained several entries for flights in instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions.

The IIC interviewed the chief pilot for the company, who was hired to fly the Stinger Company's Cessna CJ2 jet, which they purchased about 4 years earlier. The accident pilot owned the company, and would typically have the chief pilot arrange for a contract pilot to fly with him in the accident airplane. The chief pilot was standing by to fly the owner in the CJ2, but the owner never contacted him or requested another pilot for the accident airplane.

The IIC interviewed a contract pilot who flew with the accident pilot on December 16, 2012; this was their only flight together. It was a 6-hour round trip from Coolidge to La Paz, Mexico. The airplane was in perfect condition; everything was working, and they had no squawks. The pilot had paper charts, as well as charts on an iPad. The contract pilot felt that the pilot handled the airplane well, was competent, and understood all of the systems. The pilot coached the contract pilot on the systems installed including the autopilot. They used it on the outbound trip, and it operated properly. They used the approach mode into La Paz including vertical navigation. The pilot had no complaints of physical ailments or lack of sleep, and fuelled the airplane himself.

The passenger was a company employee who was not a pilot.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was a Beech B100, serial number BE89. The airplane's logbooks were not provided and examined. 

The IIC interviewed Stinger Welding's aviation maintenance chief, whose 4-year employment was terminated about 1 month after the accident. He stated that the airplane typically flew 200-400 hours a year; the company had flown it about 800 hours since its acquisition. The chief was not aware of any unresolved squawks as the owner usually had him take care of maintenance needs immediately. The airplane had been out of service for maintenance for a long time the previous year, having taken almost 7 months to get the propeller out of the shop due to the repair cost. The maintenance chief said that the owner kept the onboard Garmin GPS databases up to date. The airplane was operated under Part 91 CFR, and inspections being delayed were: the 6-year landing gear inspection was past due; the 12-month items were due; and the 3-year wing structure and wing bolt inspection was due.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

The closest official weather observation station was Sandpoint, Idaho (KSZT), which was 46 nautical miles (nm) west of the accident site at an elevation of 2,131 feet mean sea level (msl). An aviation routine weather report (METAR) issued at 2355 MST stated: wind from 220 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 10 miles; sky 2,800 feet overcast; temperature 0/32 degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit; dew point -3/27 degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit; altimeter 29.72 inches of mercury. Illumination of the moon was 35 percent.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

The Airport/ Facility Directory, Northwest Pacific U. S., indicated that Libby Airport had an Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS)-A, which broadcast on frequency 118.575.

Libby runway 15/33 was 5,000 feet long and 75 feet wide; the runway surface was asphalt. The airport elevation was 2,601 feet.

The airport was located within the general confines of the Kootenai National Forest, and beyond the town of Libby; the area was lightly inhabited.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The IIC and investigators from the FAA and Honeywell examined the wreckage on site. Detailed examination notes are part of the public docket. The center of the debris field was about 2.5 miles north of the airport at an elevation of 4,180 feet.

A description of the debris field references debris from left and right of the centerline of the debris path; the debris was through trees on a slope that went downhill from left to right. The debris path was about 290 feet long along a magnetic bearing of 125 degrees. 

The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was a topped tree with branches on the ground below it and in the direction of the debris field. About 50 feet from the tree were composite shards, and a piece of the composite engine nacelle, which had a hole punched in it.

The next point of contact was a 4-foot-tall tree stump with shiny splinters on the stump. The lower portion of the tree had been displaced about 30 feet in the direction of the debris field with the top folded back toward the stump. Underneath the tree trunk were the nose gear and control surfaces followed by wing pieces.

One engine and propeller with all four blades attached was about 50 feet from the stump, and on the right side of the debris path. This was later determined to be the right engine. Next on the left side of the debris path was the outboard half of one propeller blade; another propeller blade was about 10 feet further into the debris field.

Midway into the debris field were several trees with sheet metal wrapped around them. Near the midpoint of the debris field, a portion of the instrument panel had imbedded into a tree about 15 feet above the ground. The wiring bundle hung down the tree trunk to ground level. To the left of the instrument panel was one of the largest pieces of wreckage. This piece contained the left and right horizontal stabilizers, vertical stabilizer, and part of one wing with the landing gear strut attached. The rudder separated, but was a few feet left of this piece.

Next in the debris field was a 6- by 8-foot piece of twisted metal, which contained the throttle quadrant.

About 100 feet right of the debris path centerline and downhill from the throttle quadrant was a 10-foot section of the aft cabin. This section was connected by steel cables and wires to a 4- by 7-foot piece of twisted metal.

The furthest large piece of wreckage was the second engine; this was later determined to be the left engine. The left propeller hub with two blades attached had separated from the engine; the other two blades were located earlier within the debris field.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Forensic Science Division, Department of Justice, State of Montana, completed an autopsy, and determined that the cause of death was blunt force injuries.

The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot.

Analysis of the specimens indicated no carbon monoxide detected in blood (cavity), no test performed for cyanide, no ethanol detected in muscle or kidney, and no findings for tested drugs.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The IIC and investigators from the FAA, Textron Aviation, and Honeywell examined the wreckage at Avtech, Kent, Washington, on February 13, 2013.

Detailed examination notes are part of the public docket. Investigators observed no mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the airframe or engines.

The engines had been modified from Honeywell models to National Flight Services, INC., models per a supplemental type certificate (STC SE002292AT), and installed in the airplane per STC SA00856AT.

The left engine was TPE331-6-511B, serial number P-27185C based on a Beechcraft data tag on the engine. The starter/generator input shaft fractured and separated; the fracture surface was angular and twisted.

No metallic debris was adhering to the engine chip detector.

The engine inlet fractured and separated from the engine gearcase housing. Earthen debris was observed on the first stage compressor impeller. Vanes of the first stage impeller were bent opposite the direction of rotation.

Overall, the compressor case and plenum displayed crush damage. Upon removal of the airframe exhaust, investigators observed earthen debris within the engine exhaust. There was a fine layer of dried mud/earthen debris on the forward suction side of the third stage turbine blades. Investigators observed metal spray deposits on the third stage turbine stator vanes.

All four propeller blades exhibited leading edge damage; a section of one blade was not recovered with the aircraft wreckage, but this blade's tip was recovered.

The right engine was a TPE331-6-511B, serial number P27190C. 

Investigators observed rotational scoring in multiple locations on the propeller shaft. The first stage compressor impeller displayed tearing and battering damage; some vanes were bent opposite the direction of rotation. Investigators observed wood debris in the engine inlet area.

Investigators observed metal spray deposits noted on the suction side of the third stage turbine stator vanes.

All four of the right propeller's blades displayed leading edge damage and chordwise scoring. One tip fractured and separated; it was not recovered. All blades bent aft at midspan; they exhibited s-bending and tip curling.

In wake of Carl Douglas’ death, a dispute between county and company spills out into the public

 Two years ago, Paul Rumelhart, with the Kootenai River Development Council, was an eager supporter of Stinger Welding, Inc. Today, when you ask about the relationship between the company and Lincoln County, Rumelhart will refer you to a lawyer.


In the weeks following the death of Stinger Welding owner and CEO Carl Douglas, a legal dispute between the Lincoln County Port Authority and the Arizona-based company has spilled out into public view. The lawsuit, filed in October 2012, says Stinger failed to comply with a 2009 development agreement that would have brought more than 200 jobs to the area. The disagreement came to the forefront last week when Steve Patrick, vice president of Stinger’s northwest operations, wrote an editorial in the Kootenai Valley Record stating that Lincoln County failed to support the company since the beginning.


On the night of Dec. 18, 2012, Stinger Welding CEO Carl Douglas was flying from Coolidge, Az. to Libby, when the small plane he was piloting crashed just miles from its destination. Douglas and Stinger employee John Smith both died in the crash on Swede Mountain. The cause of the accident is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.


In the weeks following Douglas’ death, the company changed hands to his widow, Stephanie Jordan. On Jan. 15, the company was voluntarily put into receivership, where a court-appointed receiver manages the company until the ownership situation is resolved.


As of early January, Stinger had 69 employees, far short of what the company said it would employ when it first arrived in 2009. That year, the company was working closely with the Lincoln County Port Authority and the Kootenai River Development Council, headed up by Rumelhart, to develop the former Stimson Lumber Co. site in Libby. On June 26 of that year, Lincoln County and Stinger Welding signed a 24-page development agreement to bring a bridge-building facility to Lincoln County. At the time, it was hailed as a fresh start for one of the most economically depressed areas in the state.


But according to court documents filed by Lincoln County, problems arose almost immediately. Part of the development agreement stated that Stinger would construct a large welding facility on the Stimson site and, once complete, the port authority would purchase it at the cost of construction and lease it back.


According to court documents, Stinger failed to obtain funding for the facility’s construction and in July 2009 the county provided a $3.4 million grant to the company to start the project. Attorney Allan Payne said at that point the port authority still planned on purchasing the facility from Stinger, minus the $3.4 million.


“They certainly didn’t just give that money to Stinger,” Payne said. “We say the port owns it and they say Stinger owns it and that’s what we’re trying to sort out.”


Stinger completed the building in May 2011. In hopes of repaying loans, Stinger sought funding through the New Market Tax Credits program. During that process, according to the lawsuit, Stinger allegedly misled the port authority by claiming it needed the title to the property it occupied. On July 18, 2011, the port authority conveyed the title to Stinger for $186,000.


Payne said Stinger also failed to bring the high-paying jobs to Libby that it promised in the 2009 development agreement.


“Stinger didn’t fulfill its obligation,” Payne said. “There was a commitment to bring (more than 200) well-paying jobs to Lincoln County and that never happened.”


On Nov. 1, Stinger filed a counter lawsuit against the Lincoln County Port Authority, denying most of the initial allegations and accusing the agency of fraud, slander and deceit, among other things.


Less than two months later, Patrick wrote a letter to the editor in the Jan. 22 edition of the Kootenai Valley Record, demanding the county drop its “bizarre lawsuit.” In the letter, Patrick wrote that Lincoln County failed to gather the funds and grants to purchase the building and that Douglas felt betrayed before his death.


“Is Stinger Welding going to survive and continue to pump a multi-million dollar payroll into the community?” Patrick wrote. “These answers largely reside in whether Lincoln County drops its lawsuit against Carl Douglas and Stinger Welding. Carl is dead and Stinger is operating in receivership … spending scarce dollars defending against an admittedly bizarre lawsuit is the last thing Stinger needs in its quest to continue operations and provide jobs in Lincoln County.”


Payne balked at the idea of Lincoln County dropping its lawsuit, adding if Stinger believes it’s in the right, the company should welcome it.


“If they were in a position of strength, they wouldn’t be demanding the county drop this,” he said.


Patrick disagrees, though, saying the county is not being truthful with its people or Stinger. In his editorial, Patrick said the lawsuit would only hurt the people employed by the welding company.


“This is not economic development on the county’s part, it is economic strangulation,” Patrick wrote.


Payne expects the case to go to trial sometime in 2014.


CORRECTION: This story has been changed. The price of the building’s lease was originally reported as $1 annually, which is incorrect. It also should have said Stinger planned to create 202 jobs, not 250.


Story and Reaction/Comments:  http://www.flatheadbeacon.com


NTSB Identification: WPR13FA073

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, December 18, 2012 in Libby, MT
Aircraft: BEECH B100, registration: N499SW
Injuries: 2 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 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.


On December 18, 2012, about 0002 mountain standard time (MST), a Beech B100, N499SW, collided with trees at Libby, Montana. Stinger Welding was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The noncertificated pilot and one passenger sustained fatal injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage from impact forces. The cross-country personal flight departed Coolidge, Arizona, about 2025 MST on December 17th, with Libby as the planned destination. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the nearest official reporting station of Sandpoint, Idaho, 264 degrees at 46 miles, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the pilot had been cleared for the GPS-A instrument approach procedure for the Libby Airport. The clearance had a crossing restriction of 10,700 feet at the PACCE intersection, which was the initial approach fix for the GPS-A approach. The pilot acknowledged that clearance at 2353. At 2359, the airplane target was about 7 miles south of the airport; the pilot reported the field in sight, and cancelled the IFR flight plan.


A police officer reported that he observed an airplane fly over the city of Libby, which was north of the airport; the airplane then turned toward the airport. The officer went to the airport to investigate, but observed no airplane. He noted that it was foggy in town, but the airport was clear. He also observed that the rotating beacon was illuminated, but not the pilot controlled runway lighting.


When the pilot did not appear at a company function at midday on December 18, they reported him overdue. The Prescott, Arizona, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) issued an alert notice (ALNOT) at 1102 MST; the wreckage was located at 1835.


The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) and investigators from the FAA and Honeywell examined the wreckage on site. A description of the debris field references debris from left and right of the centerline of the debris path. The debris was through trees on a slope that went downhill from left to right.


The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was a topped tree with branches on the ground below it and in the direction of the debris field. About 50 feet from the tree were composite shards, and a piece of the composite engine nacelle, which had a hole punched in it.


The next point of contact was a 4-foot tree stump with shiny splinters on the stump. The lower portion of the tree had been displaced about 30 feet in the direction of the debris field with the top folded back toward the stump. Underneath the tree trunk were the nose gear and a couple of control surfaces followed by wing pieces.


One engine with the propeller attached was about 50 feet from the stump, and on the right side of the debris path. Next on the left side of the debris path was the outboard half of one propeller blade; another propeller blade was about 10 feet further into the debris field.


Midway into the debris field were several trees with sheet metal wrapped around them. Near the midpoint of the debris field, a portion of the instrument panel had imbedded into a tree about 15 feet above the ground. The wiring bundle hung down the tree trunk to ground level. To the left of the instrument panel was one of the largest pieces of wreckage. This piece contained the left and right horizontal stabilizers, vertical stabilizer, and part of one wing with the landing gear strut attached. The rudder separated, but was a few feet left of this piece.


Next in the debris field was a 6- by 8-foot piece of twisted metal, which contained the throttle quadrant.


About 100 feet right of the debris path centerline and downhill from the throttle quadrant was a 10-foot section of the aft cabin. This section was connected by steel cables and wires to a 4- by 7-foot piece of twisted metal.


The furthest large piece of wreckage was the second engine; the propeller hub with two blades attached had separated.

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