NTSB Identification: LAX08MA277
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, August 22, 2008 in Moab, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/02/2010
Aircraft: BEECH A100, registration: N601PC
Injuries: 10 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The purpose of the accident flight was to transport medical personnel back to their base of operation in Cedar City, Utah. One witness (a rated pilot) at the departure airport reported seeing nine people exit a passenger van with four plastic file boxes and three silver cases. The accident pilot and his nine passengers boarded the twin-engine turboprop airplane. The witness and another witness (also a rated pilot) heard the airplane take off and indicated that the takeoff sounded normal. About 15 minutes later, one of the witnesses observed smoke in the distance that was later determined to be the accident location.

The airplane impacted hilly terrain about 1.2 miles south of the departure airport, left of and less than 100 feet above the elevation of the takeoff runway. The initial impact occurred on steep, upsloping terrain on the opposite side of a gully. The airplane impacted the rising terrain in a slight right-wing low, but significantly nose-high, attitude close to the slope of the terrain.

There were no witnesses to the accident and no recorded data sources to assist investigators in determining what occurred to induce the accident sequence. The entire flight occurred below the floor of air traffic control radar coverage for the area. The airplane was not equipped with flight recorders, nor was it required to be by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). On February 9, 2009, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued Safety Recommendation A-09-11, which asked the FAA to require all existing turbine-powered, nonexperimental, nonrestricted-category aircraft that are not equipped with a flight data recorder (FDR) and are operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 91, 121, or 135 to be retrofitted with a crash-resistant flight recorder system. The crash-resistant flight recorder system should record cockpit audio (if a cockpit voice recorder [CVR] is not installed), a view of the cockpit environment to include as much of the outside view as possible, and parametric data per aircraft and system installation, all to be specified in European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) document ED-155, “Minimum Operational Performance Specification for Lightweight Flight Recorder Systems,” when the document is finalized and issued. On April 17, 2009, the FAA responded that it established a proof-of-concept study, which provided valuable information on the potential use of a cockpit image recording system on aircraft that require a digital FDR and/or a CVR and for aircraft that are currently not required to carry any type of data recording equipment and that the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority also accomplished a proof-of-concept study. The FAA further stated that a EUROCAE working group has been developing a minimum operational performance specification for lightweight recording systems that can be installed on unequipped aircraft, and the working group intended to publish a document in June 2009 that will provide performance considerations for lightweight aircraft data recording systems, cockpit audio recording systems, aircraft image recording systems, and data link recording systems. The FAA indicated that it will conduct a comprehensive review of the document and consider developing a technical standard order (TSO). In addition, the FAA stated that manufacturers from the general aviation community have been discussing current flight data management technology and developing such systems.

On August 27, 2009, the NTSB responded that it is aware of the FAA’s participation in two proof-of-concept studies and that the published findings for those studies have provided valuable information. The NTSB acknowledged the FAA’s involvement with the EUROCAE working group and noted that ED-155 was approved and published by EUROCAE in August 2009; however, the FAA must still develop a TSO. Safety Recommendation A-09-11 was classified “Open—Acceptable Response,” pending the FAA’s issuance of a TSO that includes the specifications of ED-155.

Although the airplane was substantially damaged in the postcrash fire, investigators established flight control continuity with the surviving airframe and components found at the accident scene. All major airplane components were identified in the debris field, indicating that an in-flight structural failure had not occurred. Inspection and disassembly of the engines revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions. Propeller signatures were consistent with a high power level being symmetrically delivered by both engines at the time of impact. The ground scars and the 284-foot-long debris field were consistent with a groundspeed slightly above the aerodynamic stall speed of 89 knots and indicate that the airplane was under control at the time of the accident. The investigation did not identify any evidence of poor maintenance or operations.

According to the performance charts in the Beech A100 King Air Pilot’s Operating Manual (POM), the maximum allowed takeoff weight of the accident airplane for the environmental conditions on the day of the accident (a hot day and high altitude) was 10,500 pounds. However, calculations determined that the weight of the airplane was 10,842.5 pounds at the time of the accident. While the airplane was 342.5 pounds over the maximum allowed takeoff weight to guarantee single-engine rate of climb capabilities, it was not over the maximum gross takeoff weight of 11,500 pounds. The aircraft performance study found that with both engines and propellers operating, the airplane was capable of taking off, climbing to, and maintaining a safe altitude at its weight of 10,842.5 pounds. Based on the POM, the pilot would have expected an adequate airplane performance margin given the environmental conditions on the day of the accident.

The direction of the wreckage dispersal indicates that the airplane’s energy path was on a heading of 144 degrees at the time the airplane impacted the terrain. If the pilot had intended to take a direct course to Cedar City, he likely would have made a right turn to a course of 235 degrees after takeoff from runway 21. However, the wreckage and energy path of the airplane were to the left of the runway centerline, indicating that shortly after takeoff, the pilot made a left turn. Two possible scenarios were considered to account for the wreckage location being significantly south of the direct course to the intended destination. First, the pilot could have been making a left turn back to the airport. The other possibility is that the pilot was flying the airplane south to avoid an area of restricted airspace, R-6413, located 6 miles to the west of Canyonlands Field Airport.

The accident pilot was properly trained, was current, and held the appropriate certificates for the activities in which he was engaged as a commercial pilot for the operator. A review of FAA medical records and interviews with the pilot’s spouse revealed no preexisting medical conditions. However, the pilot’s autopsy noted severe coronary artery disease, with the near complete occlusion of one coronary artery. Due to the extent of the pilot’s thermal injuries, it was not possible to determine if a cardiac event or other debilitating condition had occurred during the brief accident flight. Several witnesses at the departure airport on the day of the accident who saw or interacted with the accident pilot reported that he appeared to be in a good mood, was very willing to engage in conversation, and did not display any indications of physical ailments. In addition, a low level of carboxyhemoglobin was detected in the pilot’s blood toxicology sample, which is consistent with the pilot briefly surviving the impact sequence long enough to have been exposed to the products of combustion from the postcrash fire.

The accident airplane was operated under 14 CFR Part 91, Subpart F, and under National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) exemption 7879B, as approved by the FAA, in accordance with a time-share agreement between Leavitt Group Wings, LLC, and Southwest Skin and Cancer, LLC. The medical personnel who were killed in the accident were employed by Southwest Skin and Cancer, while the pilot was employed by Leavitt Group Wings. According to representatives of Leavitt Group Wings, Southwest Skin and Cancer personnel traveled to satellite clinics monthly to provide care to residents in those areas. NBAA exemption 7879B allowed the airplane to be operated, maintained, and inspected in accordance with 14 CFR Part 91 instead of the more stringent requirements of 14 CFR Part 135 that govern air taxi flights. Title 14 CFR 91.501(b)(6) permits the carriage of company officials, employees, and guests of a company under a time-share agreement in which a person leases an airplane with a flight crew to another person without charge except for the expenses listed in 91.501(d), which include fuel, crew travel expenses, landing fees, and insurance for that flight. According to the FAA, the time-share agreement between Leavitt Group Wings and Southwest Skin and Cancer “appears to comply with the provisions of [14 CFR] 91.501.”

Because Leavitt Group Wings operated the airplane entirely under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, the FAA’s local flight standards district office did not have a surveillance work program (per FAA Order 1800.56J, “National Flight Standards Work Program Guidelines,” Appendix A) that included oversight activities related to Leavitt Group Wings, nor was such a program required.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance during takeoff for undetermined reasons.

Full narrative available

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