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On February 28, 1996, at 0950 hours mountain standard time, a Piper PA-31-350, N27989, was substantially damaged during landing at Grand Canyon Airport, Arizona. The aircraft was being operated as sightseeing Flight 89 by Las Vegas Airlines, Las Vegas, Nevada. The flight was conducted as a 14 CFR Part 135 operation. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight and an IFR flight plan had been filed. The pilot and nine passengers were uninjured. The flight originated at North Las Vegas on the morning of the accident at 0730 hours Pacific standard time.
The pilot stated in his report that the Grand Canyon weather was above instrument approach weather minimums at the time of departure. He stated that "approaching the canyon I received ATIS information Juliet; 1,200 scattered, visibility 3/4 mile." The Grand Canyon ILS/DME runway 3 approach requires a minimum of a 200-foot ceiling and 1/2 mile visibility. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at 0900, information "Juliet" reported: measured ceiling 1,300 feet broken; 3,000 feet overcast; visibility 3/4 mile with light fog; temperature 23 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 21 degrees Fahrenheit; wind calm; and the altimeter was 30.03 inHg.
When the pilot contacted the Grand Canyon Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT), he stated he had "Juliet". No additional weather information was provided the pilot. The pilot stated that after landing he drifted to the left. He said he tried to correct, but the plane skidded off the runway. According to the pilot, he had operated the deice boots one time prior to landing to eliminate accumulated ice.
The pilot contacted the Grand Canyon ATCT at 0939, while on the ILS approach. At 0941, the local controller advised the pilot that a vehicle reported the braking action as poor, the pilot acknowledged. At 0946, the pilot reported "HAPLY" DME fix inbound and the pilot was cleared to land. At 0947, the weather was recorded as indefinite 400 feet obscured and 1/4 mile snow and fog.
A written statement was obtained from the airport manager. About 30 minutes after the accident he took photographs of the airframe icing that was still present on all leading edges and propellers of the aircraft. He stated that the ice was 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and extending 1 to 2 inches above and below the leading edge of the surfaces. Some ice had broken away during the accident sequence. The manager also stated that there was about 1 inch of snow on the runway at the time of the accident. They had plowed the runway to a width of 130 feet earlier in the morning.
According to an airport attendant in a vehicle near the runway, the airplane landed hard to the left of the runway centerline.
According to the pilot/operator accident report form, the ATP rated pilot had a total of 4,480 total flight hours with 1,670 hours in the make and model of the accident airplane.
According to the FAA records, the pilot's last airman competency/proficiency check for FAR 135.293, 297, and 299 was accomplished on November 28, 1995. The pilot was given a postaccident flight check on March 1, 1996.
The airplane was maintained under an FAA Approved Airplane Inspection Program (AAIP). The last inspection, event no. 3, had been conducted on February 21, 1996, at a total time of 15,261.1 hours.
According to the pilot, all of the airplane's systems were working with no deferred maintenance items.
According to FAA operations specifications dated February 10, 1989, the use of the autopilot in-lieu of required second-in-command was permitted for instrument flight in the accident airplane.
The Grand Canyon ASOS, (automated surface observation system), reported the weather at the time of the accident as: indefinite 400 feet overcast; 1/4 mile in fog and snow; temperature 24 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 22 degrees Fahrenheit; wind 160 degrees at 3 knots per hour; and the altimeter was 30.04 inHg.
The operator stated that in his opinion the ASOS system had not been reliable for the last 3 months. Consequently, when weather was in question, he would call the ATCT one or more times for an observation from tower personnel which he did on the day of the accident.