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On October 15, 1997, at 0920 hours mountain standard time, a Beech 99-C99, N227AV, en route to Henderson, Nevada, collided with utility lines about 14 miles south of Meadview, Arizona. The aircraft sustained substantial damage; however, neither the captain nor first officer was injured. There were no passengers onboard the aircraft during this leg of the flight. The aircraft was operated as Flight 12, a scheduled domestic flight by Air Vegas Inc., under 14 CFR Part 121 when the accident occurred. The flight originated in Grand Canyon, Arizona, at 0830. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company VFR flight plan was filed.
A witness reported that about 0915 he was northbound in his car on Anteres Road, about 5 miles south of the accident site, when he saw an object approaching in his rear view mirror. About 10 seconds later, he realized it was an aircraft and pulled over to the side of the road, thinking the pilot might be attempting to land.
The aircraft flew over the car at an estimated altitude of 30 to 50 feet agl. The witness, who is also a pilot, observed the lower fuselage and noted that the landing gear was retracted. At that time, he estimated the aircraft's speed to be more than 200 knots. He did not report seeing a registration number or logo but did indicate that he thought the aircraft was possibly a Beech King Air.
The witness continued northbound until reaching the intersection of Pierce Ferry Road. Upon his arrival, he noted the transmission lines were down and there were small fires along the side of the road in several places. A section of transmission line was draped over an unoccupied pickup truck that was parked near the intersection. He noted numerous fragments of white fiberglass with red and blue stripes spread over the immediate area. One fragment had the words "no push" stenciled on it. The noses of the operator's C-99 aircraft have those words stenciled on them. The corresponding portion of the accident aircraft's nose was missing when it landed at the conclusion of the flight.
A second witness was northeast-bound on Pierce Ferry Road when she saw an aircraft cross the road in front of her, flying from her right to left. The aircraft was in level flight about 30 feet agl and collided with the transmission lines that parallel the north side of Pierce Ferry Road.
After striking the lines, she described the aircraft as descending briefly to about 15 feet agl. The aircraft's wings "wobbled" momentarily and it then climbed back to about 30 feet. The aircraft continued northbound until it entered a right turn. She watched the aircraft until it disappeared from her view.
As she looked back at the intersection, she noticed that one of the broken utility lines had fallen across a parked pickup truck. She also observed that several of the broken lines were arcing on the ground.
After the accident, the captain reported to company management that he saw a car on a dirt road that was smoking. Since he was on descent for landing at Henderson, he decided to go down to investigate and see if the car needed assistance. After overflying the car, he thought they struck a power line. After assessing the damage to the aircraft, he decided to continue to Henderson rather than landing at the Temple Bar airport that was closer.
The first officer reported that there were no passengers onboard during the return flight from the Grand Canyon. After takeoff, with the captain at the controls, the aircraft climbed to 8,500 feet msl while on a heading of 239 degrees. About 10 miles northwest of the Peach Springs VOR they saw a red car trailing smoke on the road below them. The captain started a descent after seeing the car.
As they descended, the first officer tightened his seat belt because the air was getting bumpy. He saw a parked pickup truck and was pointing it out to the captain when he saw utility lines. He called out "power lines" but they were unable to avoid striking the lines. After the collision, the aircraft slowed to about 140 knots but remained stable.
At first, the captain told him that they were going to land at Temple Bar, which was the closest airport. He changed his mind, however, because the aircraft remained controllable and there was equipment available at Henderson.
As they approached Henderson, they heard a loud thud and the left engine began shaking. The captain brought the power back to flight idle on the left engine and the first officer advised the tower they were unable to maintain altitude. The captain corrected him by saying he was still able to maintain altitude but also advised that he was declaring an emergency.
The first officer lowered the gear but did not get a green light on the nose gear. The captain asked him to contact the tower and ask them to visually confirm the position of the gear. He complied and the tower operator replied that the gear appeared to be fully extended.
The first officer unstrapped the fire extinguisher in preparation for landing and the captain landed the aircraft without further incident. The crew shut down the left engine as they taxied to the ramp.
As the aircraft taxied in, maintenance personnel noticed the damage. An inspection revealed that the top portion of the nose of the aircraft had separated and several avionics components installed in that section were either damaged or missing. They also noted sections of wire embedded in the forward fuselage and vertical stabilizer.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors later responded to the accident site and found several damaged avionics components on the ground near the transmission lines.
The captain was hired on December 18, 1994, as a first officer and was qualified in the aircraft on December 18, 1994. He was advanced to captain on July 2, 1996. His last flight check was conducted under FAR Part 121.441, on August 13, 1997. There were no performance weaknesses or failures recorded in his flight training records.
The first officer was hired on April 17, 1997, as a first officer and was qualified in the aircraft on April 23, 1997. His last flight check was conducted under FAR Part 121.441, on April 17, 1997. There were no performance weaknesses or failures recorded in his training records.
The aircraft was equipped with a ground proximity warning indicator that is set to produce an audible warning when the aircraft descends to within 500 feet of terrain. It is not adjustable from the cockpit and may be disabled only by pulling the associated circuit breaker.
A Penney and Giles (B & D Instruments) cockpit voice recorder (CVR) P/N 89094-003211, S/N A01517, was installed in the aircraft under a FAA field installation authorization. The company operations specification's manual requires that the unit be checked during the aircraft preflight inspection and a periodic inspection at 6-month intervals. The last 6-month check was performed on August 1, 1997. The internal recording tape was last replaced on August 1, 1997, during the periodic check.
Pages 20 and 21 in the Air Vegas flight crew standardization manual states that it is the responsibility of the captain to use cockpit resource management (CRM) procedures to coordinate with the first officer in a way that provides maximum safety and efficiency of the flight. The manual also requires the captain to use sufficient communications skills and foresight so that there is no question as to a particular phase of flight.
The manual further permits the practice of emergency procedures, provided the procedures are in accordance with the aircraft flight manual, as well as execution of practice instrument approaches during "dead head" legs.
Section 1, pages 11 through 13, paragraphs 13 through 15, in the Air Vegas general operations manual states that crewmembers will be prompt in bringing to the captain's attention information or factors having a bearing on the safety of the flight.
Specifically, the first officer is responsible to bring to the attention of the captain, assertively if necessary, information and factors regarding the safety of flight that may not have been considered. In addition, the first officer will bring to the captain's attention any deviation from standard operating procedures.
COCKPIT VOICE RECORDER
The CVR was removed from the aircraft and shipped to the Safety Board Vehicle Recorder's division of the Office of Research and Engineering for voice data retrieval. The audio quality of the tape was unintelligible and no usable data was recovered. The CVR manufacturer reported that the Mylar coating on the recording tape wears over time and can result in poor audio quality. If this deficiency exists, it is independent of and is not reflected on the required preflight test.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The area of the accident site is flat, open, desert terrain. Electrical transmission lines run nearly perpendicularly across Anteres Road along the northwest side of Pierce Ferry Road. The wooden utility poles support a series of three wires. The poles are 40 feet in length with 6 feet below ground level.
The wooden cross arms support two wires and are attached 5 feet below the top of the poles. The wires are supported 29 feet agl at each pole, sagging to 27 feet at the midpoint between poles. The poles also support one wire that runs between the tops of the poles at 35 feet agl, sagging to about 33 feet at the midpoint between the poles.
Upon inspection, utility representatives reported that approximately 2.5 miles of aluminum three-phase wire was down and 38 wooden cross arms were found to have been damaged.
A postaccident inspection of the aircraft revealed that about 8 inches from one blade of the left propeller was missing. The fiberglass nose section was shattered and a broken section of wire was found embedded in the left side of the forward fuselage.
The spinners, propellers, engine nacelles, and main wings exhibited denting and marring.
The vertical stabilizer exhibited a horizontal cut that originated about 3.5 feet above the root that traveled aft about 2 feet, stopping at the fin spar. The cut then changed direction and traveled up the fin spar an additional 2 feet before stopping. A broken section of wire was found imbedded in the cut.
The ground proximity-warning indicator, which was located in the nose of the aircraft, was destroyed.
The Safety Board did not take custody of the aircraft. Some disassembly and inspection procedures had been initiated before Safety Board investigators viewed the aircraft.
Initial photographs of the undisturbed aircraft damage were taken by a professional photographer at the direction of the operator.
The CVR had been removed by the operator and was in transit to the STC holder. An inspector from the Wichita FAA FSDO took custody of the CVR when it arrived and arranged for its continued shipment to the Safety Board. The Safety Board returned the unit to the operator after conducting a voice data readout. The CVR was subsequently returned to the manufacturer by the operator.
The time of the accident was established through the review of the utility company's automated Pierce Ferry substation's Dolan Springs electrical breaker records. The records include the time the breakers were activated and electrical transmission was interrupted.