CHALLENGER 600 ACCIDENT AT TRUCKEE-TAHOE APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN A CIRCLING APPROACH
Corporate jets have an amazingly good safety record. It is rare that one crashes because most are flown by two experienced pilots, there are numerous redundant safety systems and the power reserve is such that going around in the event of trouble is almost always an option.
Flight Aware appears to show N605TR, on an RNAV GPS instrument approach to Runway 20 at Truckee Airport. This airport is down in a valley surrounded by very high mountains. Runway 20 is the shorter of the two runways only about 4600 feet long vs. Runway 11 which is 7000 feet.
The winds had switched direction so they were from the East during the approach which would create a quartering tailwind during the approach and landing had the landing been on runway 20.
It appears from the data that the crew elected to circle to land to runway 11, the much longer runway and into the wind which therein lies the problem.
There is a reason airlines no longer fly circling approaches, they are dangerous. The airplane is in landing configuration, in high terrain the visual cues are misleading and a mistake can be fatal.
Instrument approaches, and there was one for Runway 11, end right at or very close to the end of a runway, are usually straight in and require virtually no change in aircraft configuration, speed or descent rate.
That’s why they are flown in what is known as a stabilized approach. On speed, fully configured for landing, normal descent rate. Making a circling approach changes all of that and increases the risks associated with landing especially at a hot, high and mountainous airport like this one. Adverse weather otherwise does not appear to be a factor.
Both approaches are not standard descent rates, both approaches are in mountainous terrain, both can be challenging from the wind direction, suddenly changing, but straight in is way better and way safer.
This is not to say that this accident was caused by the foregoing, but this is what the data shows and this airplane crashed in what appears like a circling approach to the longer runway. A recording of ATC communications on this approach is attached.
The cause remains to be seen.
Arthur Alan Wolk
July 29, 2021