Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Pilatus PC-12/47E, N79NX: Fatal accident occurred February 13, 2022 in Beaufort, Carteret County, North Carolina

Case No. 22-CVS-446 



Defendant Dillon’s Aviation is vicariously liable, by operation of law, for Mr. Rawls’ act or omissions in the following respects:

a. Mr. Rawls failed to fly the subject aircraft safely;

b. Mr. Rawls failed to maintain control over the subject aircraft;

c. Mr. Rawls improperly flew into IFR conditions;

d. Mr. Rawls failed to properly avoid restricted airspace, leading to an erratic and irregular flight path;

e. Mr. Rawls improperly relied on a co-pilot with inadequate training and experience to fly around the restrict airspace, and to fly in the weather conditions that were present on the day of the subject flight;

f. Mr. Rawls’ training of Jeffery Worthington Rawls during the subject flight diverted Mr. Rawls’s attention from flying the aircraft safely;

g. Mr. Rawls failed to maintain adequate communication with air traffic control;

h. Mr. Rawls failed to conduct a proper weight and balance evaluation prior to take off;

i. Mr. Rawls’ negligent piloting led to his subsequent spatial disorientation; and

j. Mr. Rawls failed to properly and safely operate the aircraft, resulting in a crash.


Ernest Durwood Rawls



The families of four people — including three teens — who died in a February plane crash off the North Carolina coast are suing the companies that owned the plane and employed the pilot, who also died. The suit claims the pilot failed to properly fly the single-engine plane in weather conditions with limited visibility, making the firms liable.
All eight people onboard the Pilatus PC-12/47E died when it descended into the Atlantic Ocean off the Outer Banks. Four teenagers and two adults on the plane were returning from a hunting trip. The two others were the pilot and his adult son, who was a student pilot, the suit said.

The wrongful death suit was filed Tuesday in Carteret County against EDP Management Group LLC and Green Assets, both of Wilmington, and Dillon’s Aviation of Greenville.

The plane took off February 13 in the early afternoon from Hyde County Airport, which is on the mainland near the Pamlico Sound. The plane's destination was southwest across the sound to Beaufort, which is along the southern edge of the Outer Banks in Carteret County.

The suit alleges that pilot Ernest "Teen" Rawls failed to maintain control over the plane and improperly flew into weather conditions with limited visibility that required the use of instrumentation.

The suit also asserts that Rawls failed to maintain adequate communication with air traffic control and failed to avoid restricted military airspace, “leading to an erratic and irregular flight path.”

The suit alleges that Rawls improperly relied on a co-pilot with “inadequate training and experience” to fly around the restricted airspace and in those weather conditions. Rawls’ son, Jeffrey Rawls, reportedly, had 20 hours of flight experience, the suit stated.

The suit also claims that Rawls failed to conduct a proper weight and balance evaluation before taking off.

A person who answered the phone at a number for Green Assets said the company was declining comment. The website for Green Assets listed Hunter Parks, one of the people who died in the crash, as its founder and chairman. His family is not among those who sued.

Email and phone messages seeking comment from Dillon’s Aviation and EDP Management Group were not immediately returned.

In late February, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary accident report that the pilot had made no distress calls and no declarations of an emergency.

The airplane had reached 4,700 feet (1,430 meters) and was climbing quickly, the NTSB's report stated. There was no response to calls from an air traffic controller, and radar contact was lost.

A final report from the NTSB has not been issued.

Andrew Robb, a Kansas City-based aviation attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the four families, said by phone that the plane's lack of distress calls and climbing altitude were hallmarks of a pilot becoming spatially disoriented.

“If there was a problem with the mechanics or the electronics or something on that airplane that caused this 3,000-foot ascent, you would think that the pilot would have made some kind of communication,” Robb said.

The lawsuit was filed by the families of passengers Noah Styron, 15; Michael Shepherd, 15; Jacob Taylor, 16; and Stephanie Fulcher, 42.

Others who were onboard included Parks, 45, and Jonathan Kole McInnis, 15.

Rawls and his son lived in Greenville, authorities said in February. Fulcher, Parks and the four teens lived in Carteret County. The mostly rural county is home to older fishing villages as well as touristy areas that include Emerald Isle and Cape Lookout National Seashore.

The four teenagers went to East Carteret High School, which has about 600 students.

Charlie Snow, a close friend of the pilot, told The Associated Press in February that Rawls had previously flown for Snow’s company, Outer Banks Airlines, and was highly trained and extremely capable.

“If anybody could get out of something, if it was possible to get out of it, he could have done it,” Snow said.



 

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 Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Greensboro, North Carolina
Hartzell Propellers; Piqua, Ohio
Transportation Safety Board of Canada; Gatineau,  Quebec, Canada
Pratt & Whitney Canada; Saint-Hubert,  Quebec, Canada
Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board; Payerne, Switzerland
Pilatus Aircraft Ltd; Stans, Switzerland

EDP Management Group LLC


Location: Beaufort, North Carolina
Accident Number: ERA22LA120
Date and Time: February 13, 2022, 14:02 Local
Registration: N79NX
Aircraft: PILATUS AIRCRAFT LTD PC-12/47E 
Injuries: 8 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On February 13, 2022, about 1402 eastern standard time, a Pilatus PC-12, N79NX, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Beaufort, North Carolina. The commercial pilot, student pilot, and 6 passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The airplane departed Pitt-Greenville Airport (PGV), Greenville, North Carolina, about 1235, and landed at Hyde County Airport (7W6), Engelhard, North Carolina, at 1255. Then, the airplane departed runway 29 from 7W6, about 1335.

After departure, the pilot contacted air traffic control, reported they were going to level off at 3,500 ft mean sea level (msl), and requested visual flight rules (VFR) flight following as well as an instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance into Michael J. Smith Field Airport (MRH), Beaufort, North Carolina. At 1338, the controller advised the pilot that nearby restricted airspace was active, and the pilot confirmed that they would remain clear of the airspace and fly to the east. At 1341, the controller called the pilot and indicated that they were about to enter the restricted airspace. After multiple calls with no response from the pilot, the controller instructed the military aircraft in the restricted airspace to remain above 4,000 ft msl. At 1349, the pilot called the controller and requested the RNAV approach to runway 26 but was denied the request because of the active restricted airspace. Furthermore, the controller queried the pilot as to why he did not respond to the earlier radio calls, and the pilot responded that he “was trying to get out” and was unable to receive the radio transmissions. The controller offered an approach to runway 8 or runway 3, and the pilot chose runway 8.

At 1352, the controller reported that the restricted airspace was not active anymore and asked if the pilot wanted the RNAV approach to runway 26 instead. The pilot responded that he would appreciate that, and the controller cleared the pilot direct to CIGOR, the initial approach fix for the RNAV 26 approach. At 1355, the controller called the airplane and asked to verify if they were direct to CIGOR because the airplane was still on a southwesterly heading. The pilot responded “roger” and the controller said the airplane could proceed direct to CIGOR, to cross the waypoint at or above 1,900 ft msl and was cleared for the runway 26 RNAV approach. The pilot read back the instructions correctly and then at 1358, the controller contacted the airplane and issued a heading to CIGOR, but then indicated the airplane was “correcting now.” At 1358:46, the controller called the pilot and issued the local altimeter setting because the airplane was at 1,700 ft msl and was supposed to maintain 1,900 ft msl. The pilot read back the altimeter setting correctly, and that was the last transmission from the airplane.

At 1401, the controller called the airplane and asked what altitude it was at because the airplane was at 4,700 ft msl and climbing quickly. There was no response. Radar contact was lost with the airplane at 1402 and an ALNOT was issued at 1429. Throughout the communication with air traffic control, there were no distress calls or a declaration of emergency from the airplane.

The airplane impacted the Atlantic Ocean and was located by the US Coast Guard 3 miles offshore in about 60 ft of water. Dive crews recovered an ELT and a Light Data Recorder (LDR). The LDR was sent to the NTSB Recorders Laboratory for data download.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records, the pilot seated in the left seat held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane multiengine land, airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane. In addition, he held a ground instructor certificate and held a mechanic certificate for airframe and powerplant. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued June 28, 2021. At that time, he reported 3,000 hours of flight experience.

According to FAA airman records, the passenger seated in the right seat held a student pilot certificate. His most recent third-class medical certificate was issued on July 6, 2021, and at that time he reported 20 hours of flight experience.

An examination of the wreckage is pending recovery.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PILATUS AIRCRAFT LTD
Registration: N79NX
Model/Series: PC-12/47E 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
Operator:
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: IMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: MRH,8 ft msl
Observation Time: 13:58 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 19 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 7°C /6°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 13 knots / 18 knots, 20°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 900 ft AGL
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Engelhard, NC (7W6)
Destination: Beaufort, NC (MRH)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 6 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: Unknown
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: Unknown
Total Injuries: 8 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 34.81355,-76.2871

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email witness@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov. You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290. 


Jeffrey Worthington Rawls and Ernest (Teen) Durwood Rawls 


Ernest "Teen" Durwood Rawls 

Jonathan "Kole" McInnis

Jacob "Jake" Nolan Taylor

Michael Daily Shepherd

Noah Lee Styron

Stephanie Anne Fulcher

Douglas Hunter Parks

Ernest Durwood Rawls



Pilot Ernest "Teen" Rawls and passenger Jake Taylor

7 comments:

  1. So, if this turns out to be a pilot incapacitated type situation, what will the plaintiffs do then?

    RIP and condolences to the families.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. a "pilot incapacitated type situation" could show PIC should not have been flying. That is if any available identifiable tissue/specimen can prove anything!

      Delete
    2. Incapacitation is very unlikely, as the plane was in communication with ATC well after it was flying erratically and never gave a simple "mayday" or even "help".

      Delete
  2. "...you would think that the pilot would have made some kind of communication,” Robb said.". Nope - aviate first...then communicate...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would not call a rapid climb of 3,000 feet aviating. That cockpit was a mess. Missed communication, then 200 feet low, then suddenly at 4,700...that is not aviating...that is pandemonium.

      Delete
  3. The pilot did not conduct a crisp, disciplined flight for the weather conditions at hand. He had a commercial ticket, instrument rated but was doing a scud run.

    Lawsuit will be settled with almost no effort required.

    ReplyDelete
  4. From 1700 feet (200 feel low_ to 4700 feet and then lost from radar provides a clue the NTSB will follow closely. A non distracted instrument rated pilot would most likely not be 200 feet low leaving a possible conclusion that the pilot was allowing the student pilot son to do the flying. An excursion of 3000 feet in a turbine powered aircraft is clearly possible at the hands of a 20 hour student pilot. That fast a (rapid) climb could also result in a stall/spin. The difference of ATC noticing the 4700 altitude and then a minute later losing radar contact, while speculative, seems likely if the times provided are correct. Of course, this is all speculation. The experts will have more detailed information upon which to determine (provide insight) what happened (especially between 1700 MSL and 4700 MSL when on an instrument approach. A law suit from the youth's parents is understandable in that negligence seems likely. Could be hard to prove. Such a tragic loss that should never have happened. Reminds me of the Lakefront Airport (Cleveland) Citation that had similar characteristics and outcomes.

    ReplyDelete