Saturday, January 18, 2020

Beech B200 Super King Air, N547LM: Accident occurred January 16, 2020 near Thomas Madsen Airport (PADU), Unalaska, Alaska

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.

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska

Location: Dutch Harbor, AK
Accident Number: ANC20LA015
Date & Time: 01/16/2020, 0806 AKS
Registration: N547LM
Aircraft: Beech 200
Injuries: 1 Minor, 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled - Air Medical (Unspecified) 

On January 16, 2020, about 0806 Alaska standard time, a Raytheon Aircraft Company B200 airplane, Lifeguard N547LM, sustained substantial damage when it impacted the waters of the Bering Sea while departing from the Thomas Madsen Airport (PADU), Unalaska, Alaska (Port of Dutch Harbor). The airplane was being operated by Aero Air, as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 instrument flight rules (IFR) air ambulance flight when the accident occurred. The airline transport pilot sustained minor injuries and the flight paramedic, and flight nurse were uninjured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the departure airport, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight departed Thomas Madsen Airport (PADU), Unalaska, Alaska (Port of Dutch Harbor), about 0756 destined for Adak, Alaska.

According to the pilot, after checking the weather on the Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS), he completed the before takeoff check list, back taxied for a runway 31 departure and initiated the takeoff roll. He said he recalled the winds being reported as 100° at 9 knots. As the airplane accelerated down the runway, he said the airspeed was about 75 knots at midfield and increasing. When the airspeed reached about 90 knots, he applied back pressure to the control yoke to initiate the takeoff and noted a brief positive rate of climb, followed by a sinking sensation. The airspeed rapidly decayed, and the stall warning horn sounded. In an effort to correct for the decaying airspeed, he lowered the nose and immediately noticed the airplane's lights reflecting off the surface of the water. He pulled back on the airplane's control yoke and leveled the wings just before impacting the ocean waters.

The pilot stated there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

According to the medical crew, after a preflight briefing that included a brief discussion by the pilot of the planned downwind takeoff, the airplane door was shut, and the airplane taxied for departure. The crewmembers reported that, during the initial takeoff run the airplane acceleration appeared normal; however, the airplane seemed to remain on the runway longer than normal. One of the crewmembers reported that he felt the nose of the airplane lift from the surface of the runway before settling back down, which was followed by a second rotation and a substantial bump. The other crewmember reported that he felt the nose of the airplane lift off the runway, followed by a substantial bump as if the airplane struck something at the end of the runway. Shortly thereafter, the airplane impacted the ocean waters. After the airplane came to rest and began to fill with water, the crew removed the emergency exit, donned life preservers and inflated and deployed the life raft. They then exited the airplane one at a time through the over-the-wing emergency exit into the life raft. After casting off from the damaged and sinking airplane. They notified their communications center via cell phone of the accident and requested assistance.

The contract weather observer on duty that witnessed the accident, reported that she first observed the airplane begin its takeoff roll on runway 31 at PADU, and noted that the pilot did not call via a radio for the current airport weather conditions. In an effort to provide the flight crew with current wind conditions, she made her way to the radio; however, by the time she was ready to transmit the airplane was already midfield on its departure roll. She stated that although it was still dark, it appeared that the airplane did not become airborne and exited the end of the runway. Concerned for the well-being of the occupants, she alerted first responders. The life raft was first reached by first responders within about 30 minutes.

The closest official weather observation station was PADU Unalaska, Alaska. The local weather observer, call sign Dutch Weather, 0756 observation reported wind from 110° at 16 knots, gusting to 22 knots; 6 statute miles visibility in light rain and mist; overcast clouds at 1,400 ft; temperature 39° F; dew point 36° F; and an altimeter setting of 29.48 inches of mercury. Peak winds reported at time 0740 were 150° at 26 knots and 110° at 30 knots.

A PADU 0757 observation reported wind from 110° at 20 knots, gusting to 28 knots; 6 statute miles visibility in light rain and mist; overcast clouds at 1,400 ft; temperature 39° F; dew point 36° F; and an altimeter setting of 29.48 inches of mercury.

IFR takeoff minimums and (obstacle) departure procedures only allow for night departures at PADU off of runway 31.

The airplane was equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and an underwater beacon. The CVR has been recovered and was sent to the National Transportation Safety Board's Recorders Laboratory for an audition. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech
Registration: N547LM
Model/Series: 200 B200
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Aero Air
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:
Observation Time: 1656 UTC
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point: 4°C / 2°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 16 knots / 22 knots, 110°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 1400 ft agl
Visibility: 6 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.48 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: Dutch Harbor, AK (DUT)
Destination: Adak, AK 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor, 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor, 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 53.898889, -166.545000 (est)

LifeMed Alaska

LifeMed Alaska experienced an incident in their King Air during takeoff from the Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Airport at approximately 8:00am on January 16, that resulted in an emergency water landing between the runway and Hog Island in Unalaska Bay.

The pilot and two medical staff crew members were able to safely evacuate the aircraft into a life raft and were rescued within minutes by U.S. Coast Guard. All three were in good condition, were able to move under their own power, and are being evaluated at Iliuliuk Family & Health Services Clinic.

The Aircraft, a King Air twin engine turboprop, was being dispatched to pick up a passenger for transport. It is unknown at this time what caused the accident.

According to LifeMed Alaska CEO Russ Edwards, “While taking off for a routine medical transport this morning, our aircraft experienced an unknown issue which forced an emergency water landing. Through skill, training and composure, our pilot and two crew members were able to safely evacuate from the aircraft with minimal injuries. We are extremely grateful for this outcome and are reminded that our profession requires constant vigilance and focus on safety.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified and will investigate the cause of the accident. Flight operations at LifeMed Alaska have been temporarily suspended as we evaluate our crews' readiness. More information will be released as it becomes available.

That's all that we know right now. As with anything of this nature, facts are a moving target as the situation unfolds 800 miles away. Beyond knowing that our crews are safe and relatively unhurt, the facts will unfold as they do and we'll share them through official sources when it's appropriate.

LifeMed Alaska

Three people aboard a LifeMed medevac flight were rescued Thursday morning after the plane went into the water during takeoff from the Unalaska airport.

The Beechcraft King Air 200, chartered by Aero Air, went down at 8 a.m. in “pitch-black” darkness at the tail end of a harsh Aleutian Islands windstorm, said John Lucking, chief of the Unalaska Police Department.

The weather was misty and overcast at the time, with wind gusts between 14 and 23 mph from the east, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Bartos.

LifeMed CEO Russ Edwards said the weather was “nothing unusual for Dutch Harbor this time of year.”

Edwards said plane was believed to be airborne only a “matter of moments” before it crashed about 100 feet offshore in the waters of Unalaska Bay, between the northwest edge of the airport runway and Hog Island.

Edwards said Thursday afternoon that it was unclear what caused the incident.

The plane was taking off to the northwest of the runway, on a flight to pick up a patient in Adak.

Edwards described the event as an emergency water landing.

“While taking off for a routine medical transport this morning, our aircraft experienced an unknown issue which forced an emergency water landing," Edwards said in a statement. “Through skill, training and composure, our pilot and two crew members were able to safely evacuate from the aircraft with minimal injuries.”

A city-owned vessel reached the downed aircraft within 24 minutes. The rescuers picked up all three passengers from a life raft and took them to shore, Lucking said.

The airplane sank into 60 to 100 feet of water, according to a report from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Aero Air pilot and two LifeMed crew members, including a nurse and paramedic, were in good condition and brought to Iliuliuk Family & Health Services Clinic for evaluation, Edwards said.

“They were at the clinic in less than an hour (from the time of the crash), which is remarkable in a rural Alaska water rescue,” Lucking said.

The incident comes less than three months after a PenAir commercial flight crash-landed in Unalaska, skidding off the runway into water and killing one passenger.

Two other medical flights have crashed in Southcentral Alaska within the last few months.

Two Medevac Alaska crew members and a Security Aviation pilot were killed in a Kenai Peninsula crash on Nov. 29. Earlier, two companies had turned down the flight on the day of the crash because of weather concerns.

Less than a month later, a single-engine plane made an emergency landing on a frozen lake east of Koliganek on Christmas Eve. Medevac crew members were returning to Anchorage after transporting a patient to New Stuyahok when the pilot reported engine failure. No one was injured.

Aero Air LLC chartered the flight. Edwards said LifeMed provides medical crews and contracts with several vendors to provide flight services. The downed plane was exclusively outfitted to provide air ambulance services, said Matt Isley, general manager of Aero Air.

Isley applauded the pilot’s response.

“It was the best possible outcome you can have in a situation like that,” Isley said.

“The pilot was able to know it’s important, when it became clear a water landing was imminent, that he was able to get the tail down because in that plane you want to land tail first,” he said.

Pilots with the company are required to have specific experience flying in Alaska, Isley said. He did not disclose how many years of experience the pilot flying the medevac plane had. He said Aero Air has “very stringent requirements for all of the pilots we hire.”

Isley said the LifeMed crew members told him they were thankful the pilot was able to react quickly and land the plane safely.

“This is an against-the-odds type of thing and he should be commended for that,” he said.

LifeMed temporarily suspended its operations Thursday, but Edwards said the services are expected to resume by 8 p.m. Edwards said the company does about 12 to 15 medical flights per month from Unalaska.

LifeMed formed in 2008 as the result of a merger between air ambulance companies Life Guard Alaska and AeroMed, according to their website. It is headquartered in Anchorage with 135 employees spread between bases in Fairbanks, Soldotna, Bethel, Palmer, Dutch Harbor and Juneau.

The Dutch Harbor base was operated seasonally until last year, when Edwards said it became a permanent fixture for LifeMed.

The medical crews rotate to Dutch Harbor from other locations, like Fairbanks and Anchorage, he said. They are stationed there for seven days.

Edwards said Thursday afternoon that a plane was headed to Unalaska to bring the rescued nurse and paramedic home to Anchorage. It’s unclear when LifeMed flight crews will return to Unalaska — Edwards said the company is waiting until “we get things back to normal.”

The crash happened during crabbing season at the country’s largest seafood port by volume.

It’s unclear how much jet fuel spilled into the water, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation report estimates there were 430 to 440 gallons on the plane at takeoff. There was a visible sheen on the water that afternoon. Isley said Aero Air is working with the National Transportation Safety Board to remove the plane in the next few days.

1 comment:

  1. Is this really to be taken seriously? "An emergency water landing??" Airplanes under full power don't just fail to fly magically, some external force plays a factor. Maybe that wind on the tail the pilot never called about is a good place to start? Amazing everyone was ok. Quick to praise skill when indeed it appears the pilot may have out them in the drink in the first place. Sorry, I still can't.. since when is a failed takeoff in subsequent stall into the ocean called an emergency water landing. A landing implies that the aircraft was under control. Why has it been two years with no final report on an incident with an intact airframe and all crew survived?