Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Air Tractor AT-802A, N70LA, registered to Custom Air Inc operated by Henry's Aerial Service Inc: Accident occurred July 31, 2017 at Wells Municipal Airport/Harriet Field (LWL), Elko County, Nevada

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA177 
14 CFR Public Aircraft
Accident occurred Monday, July 31, 2017 in Wells, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/17/2017
Aircraft: AIR TRACTOR INC AT 802A, registration: N70LA
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The commercial pilot reported that at the conclusion of the flight, he entered the left downwind leg of the airport traffic pattern, and observed about 10 knot winds from the north. He subsequently configured the airplane for a wheel landing to runway 26. The tailwheel had been in the "locked" position from the time he departed on the accident flight. Shortly after the main landing gear touched down, the airplane began to veer to the right. As the tailwheel came down, the airplane suddenly departed the right side of the runway in a hard right turn. The left main landing gear impacted an imperfection in the runway, the airplane then rotated spinning 180 degrees to the right before it came to rest. 

The pilot, experienced in the accident airplane make and model, reported no mechanical anomalies with the control system before the accident. Postaccident examination of the control system revealed no abnormalities with the rudder and aileron. The pilot further stated that he departed with the tailwheel in the "locked" position, and only disengaged the locking mechanism during the landing roll to regain control of the airplane. The manufacturer reported that landing with the tailwheel in the "unlocked" position will typically result in a tailwheel shimmy, and may not have led to a further loss of directional control. A weather study indicated an absence of fronts and weather systems and a presence of variable winds consistent with local circulations and thermals at the time of the accident. Additionally, the airport manager reported that thermal activity is prevalent at her airport, and that multiple runway excursions occur each year due to variable wind conditions and other phenomena. With the presence of variable winds in the morning and subsequent thermal activity at the time of the accident, it is likely that a sudden wind shift or thermal activity overwhelmed the pilot, which resulted in a loss of directional control and the airplane's subsequent excursion from the runway.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain directional control during a period of thermal activity, which led to a runway excursion and impact with terrain.

On July 31, 2017, about 1140 Pacific daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-802A, N70LA, was substantially damaged during a landing roll at Wells Municipal Airport/Harriet Field (LWL), Wells, Nevada. The commercial pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to Custom Air, Inc., operated by Henry's Aerial Service, Inc., and under contract with the Department of the Interior to provide aerial firefighting services. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight that departed Battle Mountain, Nevada, about 1042 as a Public Aircraft flight. 

According to the pilot, after an uneventful flight he entered the airport through the left downwind leg of the traffic pattern for runway 26, which was the active runway at the time of the accident. He observed winds from the north about 10 mph based on the position of the midfield windsock and configured the airplane for a wheel landing. The airplane touched down on the main landing gear at approximately 85 mph on the runway centerline. As the airspeed bled off and the tailwheel began to settle down to the runway surface, the pilot lost all rudder and aileron authority. After the airplane entered a hard right turn and began to depart the right side of the runway, the pilot unlocked the tailwheel to regain directional control. Runway tire marks show the airplane begin to slowly veer to the right of the runway centerline, followed by a rapid departure to the right side of the runway. The left main landing gear collided with an imperfection in the asphalt surface and separated. The left wing then impacted the ground and the airplane rotated 180 degrees before it came to rest on the north side of the runway. The pilot reported that he had never experienced a loss of rudder and aileron control in his 3,787 total flight hours of experience in the airplane make and model. 

In a subsequent statement, the pilot reported that he did not encounter any mechanical anomalies with the powerplant or control system that could have precluded normal operation during the entire flight, except for the landing phase of flight when he lost rudder and aileron authority. The pilot further stated that he confirmed continuity and function of the rudder and part of the aileron control after the airplane came to rest. 

A representative of the Department of the Interior reported that he observed a build-up of fire retardant inside the porthole of the tailwheel lock. He further stated that he confirmed function of the rudder, elevator and partial movement of the aileron, which had been damaged at the accident site. 

The airplane manufacturer reported that landing with the tailwheel unlocked can manifest as a noticeable shimmy, but is not likely to result in a loss of directional control. Additionally, the pilot is not likely to observe any unusual flying characteristics or vibrations if the tailwheel remains unlocked during flight. If the airplane touches down with the tailwheel in the "unlocked" position, the pilot's attempt to move the lock lever to the "locked" position may or may not successfully lock the tailwheel. 

An NTSB weather study did not show any surface frontal boundaries near the accident site around the time of the accident. In addition, a 500-hectopascal (hPa) chart, around 18,000 feet msl, showed a large ridge of high pressure over the western United States at 0500 PDT on the accident day. These two charts indicated that with no strong surface, mid-, or upper-level features, the daily valley/mountain breezes and thermals would be the main weather interactions on the accident day. These daily circulations include variable winds during the morning hours, with a more consistent wind around lunchtime through sunset. Visible imagery from 1830 UTC and 1845 UTC showed isolated cumulus clouds around the accident site, likely indicating that the thermals were the biggest driver in up and down motions around the terrain of the accident site. The upper air sounding using a weather model for the accident site for 1100 PDT did not indicate any low-level wind shear or turbulence below 10,000 feet msl, with an east to northeast wind around 5 to 10 knots from the surface through 10,000 feet msl.

According to the LWL airport manager, the airport is equipped with two windsocks; both located south of runway 26 about midfield. She further remarked that in the summertime the area is occupied with thermals and other weather phenomena. Each year she receives reports from pilots who experience unforeseen rapid yaw moments, and losses of directional control, both in the airport traffic pattern and on the ground, sometimes accompanied by an impact with a runway light. These sudden changes in flight performance are reported during times of wind circulation and thermal activity.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Reno, Nevada
Air Tractor, Inc.; Olney, Texas
Department of the Interior; Boise, Idaho 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf 


Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

http://registry.faa.gov/N70LA

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA177
14 CFR Public Aircraft
Accident occurred Monday, July 31, 2017 in Wells, NV
Aircraft: AIR TRACTOR INC AT 802A, registration: N70LA
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 31, 2017, about 1140 Pacific daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-802A, N70LA, was substantially damaged during a landing roll at Wells Municipal Airport/Harriet Field (LWL), Wells, Nevada. The commercial pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to Custom Air, Inc., operated by Henry's Aerial Service, Inc., and under contract with the Department of the Interior to provide aerial firefighting services. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight that departed Battle Mountain, Nevada, about 1042 as a Public Aircraft flight.

According to the pilot, after an uneventful flight he entered the airport through the left downwind leg of the traffic pattern for runway 26, which was the active runway at the time of the accident. He observed winds from the north about 10 mph based on the position of the midfield windsock and configured the airplane for a wheel landing. The airplane touched down on the main landing gear at approximately 85 mph on the runway centerline. As the airspeed bled off and the tailwheel began to settle down to the runway surface, the pilot lost all rudder and aileron authority. After the airplane entered a hard right turn and began to depart the right side of the runway, the pilot unlocked the tailwheel to regain directional control. Runway tire marks show the airplane begin to slowly veer to the right of the runway centerline, followed by a rapid departure to the right side of the runway. The left main landing gear collided with an imperfection in the asphalt surface and separated. The left wing then impacted the ground and the airplane rotated 180 degrees before it came to rest on the north side of the runway. The pilot reported that he had never experienced a loss of rudder and aileron control in his 3,787 total flight hours of experience in the airplane make and model. 

In a subsequent statement, the pilot reported that he did not encounter any mechanical anomalies with the powerplant or control system that could have precluded normal operation during the entire flight, except for the landing phase of flight when he lost rudder and aileron authority. The pilot further stated that he confirmed continuity and function of the rudder and part of the aileron control after the airplane came to rest. 

A representative of the Department of the Interior reported that he observed a build-up of fire retardant inside the porthole of the tailwheel lock. He further stated that he confirmed function of the rudder, elevator and partial movement of the aileron, which had been damaged at the accident site. 

The airplane manufacturer reported that landing with the tailwheel unlocked can manifest as a noticeable shimmy, but is not likely to result in a loss of directional control. Additionally, the pilot is not likely to observe any unusual flying characteristics or vibrations if the tailwheel remains unlocked during flight. If the airplane touches down with the tailwheel in the "unlocked" position, the pilot's attempt to move the lock lever to the "locked" position may or may not successfully lock the tailwheel. 

An NTSB weather study did not show any surface frontal boundaries near the accident site around the time of the accident. In addition, a 500-hectopascal (hPa) chart, around 18,000 feet msl, showed a large ridge of high pressure over the western United States at 0500 PDT on the accident day. These two charts indicated that with no strong surface, mid-, or upper-level features, the daily valley/mountain breezes and thermals would be the main weather interactions on the accident day. These daily circulations include variable winds during the morning hours, with a more consistent wind around lunchtime through sunset. Visible imagery from 1830 UTC and 1845 UTC showed isolated cumulus clouds around the accident site, likely indicating that the thermals were the biggest driver in up and down motions around the terrain of the accident site. The upper air sounding using a weather model for the accident site for 1100 PDT did not indicate any low-level wind shear or turbulence below 10,000 feet msl, with an east to northeast wind around 5 to 10 knots from the surface through 10,000 feet msl.

According to the LWL airport manager, the airport is equipped with two windsocks; both located south of runway 26 about midfield. She further remarked that in the summertime the area is occupied with thermals and other weather phenomena. Each year she receives reports from pilots who experience unforeseen rapid yaw moments, and losses of directional control, both in the airport traffic pattern and on the ground, sometimes accompanied by an impact with a runway light. These sudden changes in flight performance are reported during times of wind circulation and thermal activity.

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA177
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Monday, July 31, 2017 in Wells, NV
Aircraft: AIR TRACTOR INC AT 802A, registration: N70LA
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 31, 2017, about 1140 Pacific daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-802A, N70LA, was substantially damaged during a landing roll at Wells Municipal Airport/Harriet Field (LWL), Wells, Nevada. The commercial pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to Custom Air, Inc., operated by Henry's Aerial Service, Inc. and under contract with the Department of the Interior to provide aerial application services. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight that departed Battle Mountain, Nevada about 1042 under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137. 

According to the pilot, after an uneventful flight he entered the airport through the left downwind leg of the traffic pattern for runway 26, which was the active runway at the time of the accident. He observed winds from the north at approximately 10 mph from the midfield windsock and configured the airplane for a wheel landing. The airplane touched down on the main landing gear at approximately 85 mph on the runway centerline. As the airspeed bled off and the tailwheel began to sink back down to the runway surface, the pilot lost all rudder and aileron authority. The pilot subsequently unlocked the tailwheel to prevent the airplane from departing the runway, but it entered a hard right turn. The left main landing gear collided with an imperfection in the asphalt and separated. The left wing then impacted the ground and the airplane rotated 180 degrees before it came to rest on the north side of the runway.

In a subsequent statement, the pilot reported that he did not encounter any mechanical anomalies that could have precluded normal operation. Further, both the pilot and a representative of the Department of the Interior confirmed continuity and function of the rudder after the airplane came to rest. 

According to preliminary weather data, variable winds consistent with local circulations and thermals were present in the area at the time of the accident. The data did not show any fronts or existing weather systems at the time of the accident.

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