Friday, October 27, 2006

A Rejoinder / Accident of the Week

Someone recently left the following comment:
Based on your profile, commenting on an incident/accident involving 135 ops on the Y-K Delta is in poor form. If you want to post facts, fine. But why not leave the coulda-shoulda speculation out of it. I have hundreds of hours in the accident a/c and about 100 landings at Tunt, sometimes in very poor visibility or with howling crosswinds. And even with my perspective, I refuse to second-guess the pilot. You weren't there, you don't know the circumstances, and I would suggest you stick to commenting on accidents/incidents involving flying which more closely resembles your knowledge base.
To the anonymous commenter: Perhaps I did say more than normal about this accident, or more specifically, about actions that could have been taken to avoid the accident (with the admitted benefit of hindsight). But I stand by my observation that holding would have prevented this accident and allowed the pilot to land in VFR conditions soon after.

Isn't the entire purpose of reading and analyzing accident reports that we learn from them and consider alternative courses of action should we ever face similar circumstances? It certainly is for me. That's why I read them and write about them, and sometimes opine about alternatives to avoid becoming the subject of an NTSB report. I can't tell you the number of times I've analyzed a situation by saying, "How would the NTSB describe this in an accident report?"

And if I offer only the perspective of a 500-hour instrument-rated private pilot flying most of the time in the Midwest of the United States, fine. That's what I am, and that's the perspective I bring to my flying and my aeronautical decision-making. Anyone is free to choose not to read my blog if they think I'm full of crap.

With that, I offer this week's Accident of the Week:
NTSB Identification: ATL07FA002
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, October 06, 2006 in Stockbridge, GA
Aircraft: Cessna 177, registration: N2320Y
Injuries: 4 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.

On October 6, 2006, at 0945 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 177, N2320Y, registered to and operated by a private owner, as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, collided with a power line during climb out at Berry Hill Airport, Stockbridge, Georgia. The airplane was destroyed by post-impact fire. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The private pilot, and three passengers were fatally injured. The flight was originating from the Berry Hill Airport, at the time of the accident.

A witness reported that the pilot conducted a preflight inspection of the airplane prior to his departure. The pilot told the witness that he was planning to fly over to St. Simons Island for a day trip, and returning that evening. The witness reported that the pilot checked his fuel tanks, and reported that he had "over 3/4 tanks full of fuel". After the airplane was boarded the pilot conducted a run-up, and taxied to runway 29. During takeoff roll, the airplane did not get airborne until after approximately 2,000 feet down the runway. The airplane barely cleared a tree at the departure end of the runway, and continued to climb "slowly". As the witness watch the airplane climb at an extreme nose high attitude, stalled, and clipped a tree. Seconds later two explosions were heard, and the witness drove to the accident scene.

Examination of the accident scene by NTSB showed that the airplane was located 509 feet from the departure end of runway 29, and came to rest inverted on the front lawn of a private residence.
Based on the description of the departure point and slow climb rate, one is lead immediately to question whether the aircraft was operating beyond its maximum gross weight. You'll find some comments about operating the Cardinal at high and beyond max gross weight here.

Not noted in the preliminary report, but likely to be discussed in the final NTSB report, is that runway 29 at Berry Hill (4A0) is only 3000 feet long. If the airplane didn't reach takeoff speed until it was, according to the eyewitness, 2000 feet down the runway, there isn't much room for error.

However, the 3000' foot descriptor may not tell the entire story. Using Google Maps, we can see that there are displaced thresholds at the end of each runway, attributable to trees located in the approach path of both runways and a fence in the approach path of runway 11:

Although the full 3000' feet is available for takeoffs, the existence of the displaced threshold on the opposite runway implies the existence of an obstacle that interferes with the normal approach path. So, if there's something big and tall that messes with your landing to the opposite runway, there's a pretty good chance that the same big and tall object may be in your departure path. Plan accordingly.

Also, if you zoom out and examine the area to the west of the departure end of Runway 29, you will find it to be densely populated with residential housing. Not a lot of suitable emergency landing sites if you have an anemic climb rate and then suffer an engine failure (although there's no indication of that in the preliminary report).

This accident serves to remind us that we should always perform a full weight and balance calculation, double check our takeoff and landing distance calculations, and assume that the engine will fail shortly after takeoff and therefore have thought through the actions that we will take in the event of such an emergency.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would agree completely with your comments, except that I've never flown out of Stonebridge GA, and don't want to risk offending your other readers with my uninformed opinion. ;)

Like you, I'm still trying to think of the right circumstance to make 4 approaches, and I really can't either.