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.

Live ATC.net N605TR KTRK

The cause remains to be seen.

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 29, 2021

 

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DALE SNODGRASS PERISHES IN AIRPLANE CRASH

Dale Snodgrass, one of the worlds most accomplished pilots perished in the crash of his single engine aircraft.

Those of us who knew him and flew with him knew ‘Snort” as a magnificent leader, selfless teacher, and fearless pilot.

His accomplishments as a Naval Aviator are legend. He could make an F-14 talk.

I had the privilege of flying with Snort in the CAT Flight for eleven years.

He knew more about war fighting from the air than anyone I ever knew.

He was revered amongst all of us who had the opportunity to fly with him and learn from him.

This accident, of all of them, has impacted me the worst. Dale Snodgrass did not belong among the dead from airplane crashes.

For every man and woman there is that time when no time is expected to follow. Snort was so large, so capable, so magical, such a moment was just never expected.

This is the third of the CAT Flight members who have died and while each passing has been painful this one is so unexpected, so inexplicable, the pain is real but different.

To his lovely family, and the legacy that I hope comforts them, my sincerest condolences and the wish of all CAT Flight brethren that they are able to soon cope with the magnitude of this loss.

Arthur Alan Wolk

CAT 5

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ANOTHER CESSNA 421 GOES DOWN CLEARLY FROM ENGINE FAILURE ON TAKEOFF KILLING 2

The Cessna 421 cabin class twin engine airplane was the queen of Cessna’s attempt to corner the cabin class piston powered twin market in the 1970’s. It was big and was powered by two of the worst engines in modern piston engine aircraft history, the Continental GTSIO-520.

The G stands for geared, the TS turbo-supercharged, the I injected, the O opposed and the 520, the number of cubic inches of displacement. Virtually everything about this engine was troublesome.

The supercharging ruined cylinders that regularly failed before their overhaul time, the gearing made the cabin quieter but was never up to the job of dealing with all the power demanded of the engine. Engine failures occurred constantly especially on takeoff when the power demand was highest.

Worse the airplane’s exhaust system was made first of stainless steel which is brittle and failed repeatedly causing fires and later Inconel parts which should have resulted in better reliability also were found deficient.

All of the above would have been bad enough but if there were an engine failure especially on takeoff the airplane was a handful to control. It flew sideways and unless airspeed was adequate to avoid the dreaded VMC, the airplane would suddenly roll into the failed engine at astonishingly high-speed dooming all aboard.

Because of these well known and documented inadequacies Cessna 421s became cheap to buy though expensive to maintain properly, very expensive!

In Monterey California, a Cessna 421 departed on a mercy flight and flew into overcast conditions.

Suddenly the aircraft bean turning to the right and ultimately descended, crashed and caught fire. Both the pilot and her passenger were killed. While a turning flight after entering an overcast can be caused by lots of things, failure of the right engine is most likely given the good credentials of the pilot and the history of engine failure in this model.

Careful analysis of the engine wreckage is important here but initially the propellers will tell a lot. When loss of engine power occurs, one propeller is bent differently than the other, a tell-tale sign that a failure of the turbocharger, exhaust components, cylinders or even a crankshaft may be the real culprit.

While the airplane is supposed to be able to climb on one engine, in reality on takeoff that rarely if ever is successful because the single engine climb rate and airspeed was determined in a perfect airplane, flown by a test pilot under ideal conditions who knew the failure was going to be simulated. That isn’t reality.

Engine specialists will be needed to examine these engines in detail but no worries the cause of this crash is mechanical and will be found by lawyers like the Wolk Law Firm. We always do.

Sadly, the pilot, an experienced and well thought of woman Mary Ellen Carlin and her passenger Alice Emig, whom she offered to fly to Sacramento on a mercy flight both perished. Their loss is mourned.

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 21, 2021

ANOTHER BEECH V-TAIL BONANZA IN FLIGHT BREAKUP-ANGWIN CA.- 3 DEATHS

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MOONEY M20J GOES DOWN RIGHT AFTER TAKEOFF IN DINSMORE CA. KILLING 4

The Wolk Law Firm recently litigated a takeoff crash of a Mooney M20J in Kansas City Mo.

In that instance two people were killed when the engine lost power intermittently and finally control was lost and it crashed.

The initial NTSB analysis was that water in the fuel caused the engine interruption and it doubled down on the fiction that a rainstorm the night before departure caused water to flood into the fuel tanks that the pilot allegedly did not check after refueling.

It turned out that not only was there a drought and no such rainstorm (that occurred a year later) but the fuel caps on the tanks did not leak and the pilot was seen on surveillance video checking for water.

The cause of the crash, found by The Wolk Law Firm was a failed magneto that had been overhauled some 4.7 flight hours before.  A jury trial resulted in a 9-million-dollar verdict for the plaintiffs.

The magneto in Mooney aircraft is know as a single drive dual mag, in other words a single drive from the engine turns both magnetos in one housing which makes the term “redundant” a euphemism for disaster. The single drive dual mag is not redundant and has been responsible for many accidents and incidents in Mooneys and all other aircraft that use them.

The other recurrent issue in Mooneys is the difficulty in draining water out of the fuel tanks. The fuel drains are raised from the bottom of the fuel tank and care must be exercised to drain enough fuel to get all the water out.

The fact that this airplane flew four hours that day without problems means that likely a mechanical failure in the engine such as the magneto may have caused this crash.

Careful investigation by the Wolk Law Firm is vital to determining the cause of airplane crashes especially when post-crash fires damages or destroys much of the evidence. That is what we do.

We are especially sad that four lives were lost in this crash and wish the families of Henry Punt, Jacquie Ann Fig, Steve Sanz and Kenneth Malinowski our fervent wishes for peace in the face of this tragic loss.

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 21, 2021

TWO CIRRUS ACCIDENTS DUE TO APPARENT ENGINE FAILURE ARE TOO MANY

 

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New acronyms from the FAA. Fresh from being caught red-handed in the Boeing 737 MAX scandal that killed 346 people, the FAA, ever the agency of Government with no clue about aviation safety, has a new Acronym for pilots who have used the previous terminology for a century.

Instead of referring to contaminated runways as “Braking Action Good, Fair, Poor or Nil”, now the FAA has introduced a series of numbers that pilots must memorize and ignore the obvious runway contamination instead.

So, for example yesterday I landed at Salina Kansas, where even Dorothy refuses to live anymore, and the runway condition was listed as “333”. The ATIS said patchy hard packed snow on the runway which meant to me that braking action was likely Good/Fair on this 12,000 foot, grooved, military spec. runway.

But such a clearly understandable description is all of a sudden unsuitable for the FAA anymore.

Out of a range of 0-6, with 6 being hunky dory, “333” is meaningless and a wholly unnecessary addition to the Lexicon of confusing aviation acronyms that thanks to the FAA, which has too little to do when they are ignoring critical certification responsibilities, will be a substitute for the plain language we are all used to using. “333” means that on each third of the runway the braking action is medium. So instead of saying braking action is medium, the controller says “333”. What if the controller says braking action is 00? We know that 00 is no ceiling and no visibility and has nothing to do with braking action. How many pilots will confuse the number of zeros with something that has nothing to do with braking action and think the airport is below landing minima?

For example, before this change if the controller or ATIS said “braking action is nil”, that meant it sucks, and you should go somewhere else. If ATIS, or the controller said “braking action is good”, that meant land and be happy you can likely fly again another day. Now, if the braking action is reported “nil” or now “0” the runway must be closed until it’s better than nil. Great but that only applies to airports that the FAA has jurisdiction over.

The attached chart is part of the Safety Alert for Operators. The Assessment criteria are what the FAA used to figure out the numbers we must now know and the Control/Braking Assessment Criteria is what the numbers mean in plain language. So why not use the plain language? That would be too easy and safer!

But alas nothing will change and after a few planes run off the end of a runway because the pilot mistook “333” for whatever today’s FAA interpretation is someone might just use the old descriptions again instead. I will use the ATIS description as my primary guide because I know that if the runway is a sheet of ice, another destination is preferable and that’s a decision I make before departure not while on the approach.

I guess we’ll just have to “Line up and wait” for the FAA to change its mind, if any.

Arthur

2/11/21

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The Barnes TBM crash has bizarre twists. The crash of prominent New York City Lawyer Stephen Barnes bears some very unusual twists as the NTSB decides not even to travel to the scene to commence its investigation.

While the NTSB blames COVID-19 for its decision not to travel, it apparently ignored CDC guidelines about how masks and washing hands will protect us all from that influenza.

That leaves this investigation in the hands of the Plaintiffs’ lawyers, which is how most airplane accidents are resolved after investigation anyway.

The TBM is a pressurized single-engine turbine aircraft. It was flying along at 28,000 feet when communications with Boston Center were mysteriously lost. This makes no sense since once on the frequency there should have been no interruption. The procedure is to go back to the last frequency assigned if radio contact is lost or to guard 121.5, the emergency frequency if that doesn’t work.

Pictured: A TBM 700. Img Credit: Peter Bakema

The radar track shows the aircraft descending at a prodigious rate as the pilot was instructed to descend and maintain 8000 feet. In fact, just as it began its descent the airplane’s speed was 300 knots, 140 knots higher than its maneuvering speed (the speed at which full control inputs will stall the airplane before it breaks). The speed in the descent actually exceeded 440 knots, which in my experience means it broke up in the air.

The pilot asked for radar vectors to intercept the Instrument Landing System but was instructed to fly directly to the airport where he would overfly and be vectored to the ILS from the other side.

Instead, the aircraft flew in a more Northerly heading and not to the airport. When queried about it by Approach Control there was no response from the pilot.

The aircraft descended at a ground speed (radar shows only speed across the ground) of 440 knots more than 280 knots above the turbulence penetration speed of the TBM and descended below the assigned altitude until it crashed.

The following comes to mind:

1. Assuming the pilot was in good health was he impaired due to loss of pressurization as others have in the TBM?

2. At 28,000 feet, useful consciousness is between 2.5 to 3 minutes and perhaps the loss of pressurization put the pilot to “sleep” for a time.

3. Regaining usefulness is immediate as one descends and the pilot, had he been impaired by a pressurization loss, should have been able to fly as he got lower.

4. The increase in speed means either the airplane broke up on the way down or the engine was still in cruise power as the airplane descended.

5. The pilot had only flown this aircraft 8 hours in the prior three months.

6. It is unknown the recency of the pilot’s training or total flying experience.

7. A failure of the flight control system is possible such that the radios could have gone dark, the autopilot could have failed and other features to protect the pilot and the aircraft could likewise have failed, but when asked by Buffalo Approach, the pilot answered that everything was ok.

8. There is no cockpit voice recorder onboard this model but there are computer chips that may be readable that might disclose whether there were any of the failures that could cause loss of control.

9. A pressurization loss such that the pilot became impaired is a very strong consideration and a careful examination of that system is vital as a starting point in this investigation.

10. The aircraft appears to have broken up in or right before the descent.

11. The NTSB will dawdle and not release the wreckage for months and maybe years to keep Plaintiffs from finding out the cause until it issues its own report which will no doubt be written by parties it invites to the investigation, the manufacturer of the aircraft, and the engine.

12. They will be more concerned with their legal liability than serving aviation safety.

13. A review of maintenance records will thus be an important tool in preliminarily helping those who represent the victims in investigating the cause.

14. It is therefore vital that when the FAA or NTSB attempt to muscle the victims’ families and colleagues into giving up these records, that copies be made first and kept for counsel who represent the victims.

Only the most experienced air crash litigators should be engaged to work this case.

The Wolk Law Firm is the most experienced.

Arthur Alan Wolk

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Is There No End to NTSB Laziness and Incompetence in Air Crash investigations? While Nazi’s were running amuck in Charlottesville Va. a Virginia State Police Helicopter manned by one of its most experienced pilots, Lt. Jay Cullen, who with Trooper Berke Bates had just chased down the driver of the car that crashed into counter demonstrators, was hovering over the Governor’s motorcade when suddenly the Bell 407 started spinning and tearing itself apart in mid-air. The damage was so severe that it crashed to the earth at over 6000 feet per minute trailing separated parts a number of which have never been found including a main rotor link the loss of which likely would explain the accident.

The NTSB dutifully asked for the “help” of the helicopter manufacturer and the engine manufacturer as well as the Va. State Police and while doing nothing for years refused to allow representatives of the victims to see the wreckage until a lawsuit was filed against it.

The original preliminary report seemed to focus on something called Vortex Ring State as the cause. Vortex Ring State is a phenomenon almost unheard of in the Bell Model 407 which causes the rotor blades to stall because the uprush of air through them from the bottom exceeds their ability to generate enough lift to fly out of the vortex. This is caused by a deliberate descent at high rates or hovering of the helicopter out of ground effect  and a lower descent rate which causes stalling of the rotor system at the hub where the blades attach. Vortices that develop can negate lift from the remainder of the blades. The recovery procedure is simple and quick and is a sudden turn out of the vortex or an autorotation which every pilot even with just a few hours in helicopters is taught. This helicopter was just a few thousand feet in a hover so such a descent would have never occurred voluntarily, and the data shows it did not and a Vortex Ring State cannot occur absent that descent. Moreover the rate of descent was so high almost immediately it was evidence of in-flight break-up not Vortex Ring State.

The NTSB stated that it believed that the Vortex Ring State was the culprit and that its review of training records didn’t reveal any training in that phenomenon or recovery from it by the pilot in years. As a pilot for fifty years, I can state categorically that training records do not record all elements of training especially one as bizarre and of no consequence in the Bell 407 as Vortex Ring State.

The NTSB never interviewed a single pilot who was trained by Lt. Jay Cullen because had it done so it would have learned that he regularly taught Vortex Ring State to his students and also the recovery technique and practiced it with them frequently.

Had the NTSB taken the minimal effort that it is required to do by statute to interview those who performed Lt. Cullen’s training it would have known that he was taught Vortex Ring State and recovery regularly and knew all about it.

Had the NTSB been even remotely interested in coming to the correct conclusion as to the cause of the accident, it would have contacted the families of the victims to obtain the names of the students and others who were aware of Lt. Cullen’s masterful skills at flying helicopters.

Had the NTSB not been in the pocket of the helicopter manufacturers of engines and airframes it would have consulted experts in helicopter design and performance and would have known that the flight path of the helicopter was completely inconsistent with that cause.

Indeed, had the NTSB simply spoken with Bell 407 operators, as The Wolk Law Firm has it would have learned that any suggestion that Vortex Ring State had anything to do with this accident was completely unfounded. Instead the NTSB did nothing!

The NTSB, fierce in its loyalty to industry, simply visited another insult to the families of these State Troopers who were doing their job to protect Americans, all Americans. Instead of getting to the bottom of why this accident happened and finding the broken parts, it instead obstructed the families for years from seeing the wreckage so their representatives and experts could find the broken parts and come to the correct conclusion supported by the evidence. It should be ashamed of its laziness and complete failure to comply with the investigative processes mandated by both the NTSB Accident Investigation School and the ICAO Manual of Aircraft Accident Investigation.

The Wolk Law Firm will get to the bottom of the cause of this accident so others who might be victims are protected, and once again embarrass the NTSB by showing in Court that the NTSB got it wrong again.

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 15, 2020

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Mountain flying is a dangerous undertaking in most general aviation aircraft. Recently an old Cessna 172 flying in the mountains crashed in a valley in Utah.

No one has looked at the wreckage to see if a mechanical failure brought the airplane down but examination of pictures of the wreckage reveal that it did not break apart in the air and crashed at the bottom of a deep valley.

Here are a few observations that may bear on the cause of this accident. The airplane was full of people and that made it heavy if not overweight. On its best day a Cessna 172, of that vintage built in the 70’s, fully loaded at sea level may climb at 800 feet/minute. Above sea level like in the mountains and in warm temperatures that climb rate can go to just a few hundred feet a minute.

Depending on the winds in the valleys and on the downslopes of the mountains, downdrafts in excess of 3000 feet per minute are common. Even eddies of unstable warm air rising and descending unevenly in the valleys can cause turbulence and downdrafts which far exceed the ability of a loaded C-172 to outclimb them. In fact the terrain itself will rise at a rate faster than this aircraft can outclimb it.

Some of the most experienced mountain flyers and even gurus in mountain flying have perished doing what…flying in the mountains!

This aircraft’s engine must be carefully examined to see if a loss of power contributed to this tragedy but flying small planes in the mountains have and will continue to produce this kind of accident because when trouble rears its ugly head there is no place to go.

The Wolk Law Firm has successfully handled countless mountain flying accidents.

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 7, 2020

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The seaplane midair accident over the lake in Cour d’Alene, Idaho  brings to tragic attention how dangerous sightseeing flights over scenic areas can be for the occupants of these aircraft.

As an Airline Transport Pilot also for single and multi-engine seaplanes, I can attest first hand that the concept of “see and avoid” which is how the FAA expects pilots to keep from hitting each other is especially ineffective when flying over an attractive natural wonder like the lake at Cour d’ Alene. There are so many in flight distractions from watching boats on the lake, to embracing the site of the surrounding hills and the brilliant natural foliage, it is difficult to see in the first place let alone avoid another aircraft competing for those distractions. 

The only way such a flight should ever be attempted is using the latest traffic avoidance technology such as TCAS or TCAD and communicating with air traffic control, in this case Spokane Approach Control, to obtain traffic avoidance assistance when able. Flying low over the lake, while exciting diminishes the effectiveness of this equipment and traffic advisories. Seaplanes because of their pontoons for flotation are just not as maneuverable as their land based counterparts. They are heavier and less aerodynamic so getting out of the way of an impending collision can be difficult.

The loss of so many people is beyond description as would be the loss of just one person.

Safe flying is no accident and perhaps some guidance from the FAA and careful training to use all available means to avoid a mid-air collision will be helpful in the future but for now sorting out the liability for the mishap and getting compensation for the victims is a matter of first importance. 

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 7th, 2020

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Here is a Kobe Bryant crash update. More information about the circumstances of the flight hint that weather was likely the major factor and not a mechanical malfunction. The communications  between air traffic control and the pilot were normal but this flight was flown under Special VFR rules. Those rules allow an aircraft or helicopter whose pilot has received that clearance to fly with only one mile visibility and clear of the clouds.

Every pilot including this one knows that a Special VFR clearance is a license to commit suicide. One mile visibility or even Three miles is virtually no visibility at all when moving at 160 knots or about 200 feet a second. Scud running under low ceilings is dangerous but coupled with hilly terrain stacks all the odds against completing the flight safely.

Ceilings of clouds measured at airports are expressed as AGL, above ground level. When flying in hilly terrain you have to subtract from the ceiling the height of the terrain so for example a ceiling of 1200 feet AGL at the airport is only 900 feet AGL over a 300 foot hill.

Moreover the Marine Layer coming off the ocean is unpredictable and there are more dense and less dense areas of poor visibility in just a few hundred feet horizontally especially in hilly terrain.

The pilot of this helicopter was instrument rated and could easily have filed an instrument flight plan and flown above the Marine Layer which is typically no more than a thousand feet thick. A helicopter can stop, hover or land virtually anywhere. There simply was no need to fly along so fast when the terrain would come up faster than a pilot could react.

It is unclear if this aircraft was equipped with Terrain Avoidance tools like TAWS but if so it would have warned of looming terrain but flying that fast and that low could defeat even the best warning if the system was being used. Synthetic vision if installed might have afforded a look through the weather to see the terrain that was struck in time to avoid it. Not all aircraft have that feature.

Now it’s easy to jump to conclusions after a crash because the pilot can’t defend himself so the weather clearly is a factor and when flying that low and that fast in that weather if a malfunction did occur there is just no time to react to it before hitting the ground especially with rising terrain.

Like all aircraft accidents there are multiple factors that will have to be investigated and considered, for example, when the last time had the pilot flew actual IFR (Bad Weather) in a helicopter, what was his IFR currency, what if any mechanical squawks existed on dispatch.

This helicopter had extensive avionics modernization completed recently and that must be examined to see what if any additional navigation capabilities it gave the pilot and if he knew how to use it.

But this very challenging flight was being flown with one pilot. Even though that was technically legal, two pilots should have been in the front because the work load was clearly too high for this flight to be safely completed.

This accident is just terrible for all victims and their families. We grieve with them.

Arthur Alan Wolk

January 27th, 2020

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