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On December 14, 2000, about 0522 Eastern Standard Time, a Cessna 310Q, N55QS, operated by Island Express as flight 938, was destroyed when it impacted terrain in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed Auburn/Lewiston Municipal Airport (LEW), Lewiston, Maine. An instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the cargo flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 135.
The flight was destined for Albany County Airport (ALB), Albany, New York, and was usually operated five nights per week during the entire year. Prior to departure from LEW, about 0401, the pilot telephoned the Bangor, Maine, Automated Flight Service Station. He asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) specialist to cancel his flight plan from a previous flight, and requested the current weather conditions at ALB. The specialist provided the current conditions at ALB. The pilot then asked about the weather between LEW and ALB. The specialist provided current weather conditions at Portland, Maine, Concord, New Hampshire, and Rutland, Vermont. The pilot then asked about weather conditions at Bennington, Vermont, and was provided the current conditions. The pilot replied, "okay alright going for it."
The FAA specialist then advised the pilot of airmen meteorological information (AIRMETs). The first AIRMET was for IFR conditions and mountain obscuration. The second AIRMET was for moderate turbulence below 15,000 feet. The third AIRMET was for occasional moderate rime or mixed ice in clouds and precipitation below 20,000 feet; and the freezing level at or near the surface. The pilot replied "okay".
The flight departed LEW about 0420. At 0506, the airplane was about 8,000 feet msl, in the vicinity of Dillant-Hopkins Airport (EEN), Keene, New Hampshire. The pilot asked the air traffic control (ATC) controller, "sir gotta get lower gotta get lower how about uh can I get down to six?"
The ATC controller cleared the flight to 6,000 feet and asked if the pilot was "pickin up icing."
The pilot replied "something's happening I don't see thickening uh other things are indicating so I'm gonna have to get down."
At 0510 the pilot asked the controller about the airplane's ground speed and distance from ALB. The controller advised that he was "showing" a ground speed of 134 knots and 64 miles from ALB. The pilot replied, "okay we're gonna have uh little problem shortly stand by."
At 0512, the pilot stated to the ATC controller:
"I'm gonna need some assistance I'm not gonna be able to uh to make it to albany uh I've gotta uh I I may have to shut down one engine uh it's goin I'm losin it right now uh I'd like to land immediately nearest airport suitable."
The controller cleared the flight direct to EEN, and to descend and maintain 5,000 feet. At 0513, the pilot advised of an engine failure, and the controller provided information about the ILS Runway 02 approach at EEN.
At 0517, the controller stated that the pilot was 12 miles from EEN, and offered to provide vectors for the approach. The pilot stated:
"uh vectors right to the field uh I'm not I'm not going to be able to hold altitude i've got a failed engine an uh I guess I I'm pickin up a lot of ice."
The controller provided a vector and advised that the flight was below the minimum IFR altitude of 3,100 feet.
At 0521, the pilot advised he was 9.1 miles from EEN at 1,600 feet. There were no further transmissions received from the pilot.
The airplane impacted a hill approximately 7 miles southwest of EEN. The first person to arrive at the scene spoke to the pilot. The pilot told the witness that the airplane had 400 pounds of fuel onboard. He also told the witness that he was picking up ice, and had a problem with an engine.
The accident occurred during the hours of night; located approximately 42 degrees 53.11 minutes north longitude, and 72 degrees 26.67 minutes west latitude.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for single engine land, multiengine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate, with ratings for single engine and multiengine land airplanes. His most recent FAA first class medical certificate was issued on April 7, 2000.
According to the operator, the pilot had a total flight experience of 2,368 hours. Of which, 440 hours were in the make and model accident airplane, and 158 hours were in actual instrument meteorological conditions. The pilot began employment with Island Express in August, 2000. He satisfactorily completed his initial flight review required by 14 CFR Part 135, on August 22, 2000.
The last annual inspection of the airplane was completed on October 1, 2000. The airplane had flown approximately 184 hours since the inspection.
The airplane was equipped with boots on the propellers, wings, and horizontal stabilator. It was also equipped with windshield deice, and pitot heat. However, according to the airplane manufacturer and a FAA inspector, the airplane was not certified for flight into known icing conditions, nor did it have all the equipment required by FAR 135.227(c).
The reported weather at EEN, at 0515, was: wind calm; visibility 1 1/4 mile; ceiling 100 feet overcast; temperature 23 degrees Fahrenheit and dewpoint 18 degrees; altimeter 30.37.
The reported weather at ALB, at 0519, was: wind 050 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 2 1/2 miles with light snow and mist; scattered clouds at 100 feet, ceiling 3,200 feet broken, ceiling 4,100 feet overcast; temperature 22 degrees Fahrenheit and dewpoint 22 degrees; altimeter 30.31. At 0704, the reported surface temperature at ALB was 20 degrees. At 0700, the reported temperature at 8,000 feet, over ALB, was 31 degrees.
The reported weather at Portland International Jetport, Portland, Maine, at 0509, was: wind from 030 degrees at 8 knots; visibility 9 miles with light snow; ceiling 2,600 feet broken, ceiling 3,800 feet overcast; temperature 25 degrees Fahrenheit and dewpoint 14 degrees; altimeter 30.49.
Although an AIRMET was in effect for the New England area for moderate icing below 20,000 feet, there were no pilot reports (PIREPs) applicable to the accident flight.
According to radar summary charts, there was light to moderate precipitation along the pilot's route of flight.
The wreckage was examined on December 15 and 16, 2000. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. A debris path was observed, from the first visible tree scar to the right main (tip) fuel tank. The debris path was about 90 feet long, oriented about a 090-degree magnetic course. The main wreckage was approximately 1,313 feet above sea level.
The main wreckage included the cockpit, cabin, empennage, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, and both engines. It was located about 70 feet beyond the initial tree scar along the debris path, and oriented about a 340-degree heading. The cockpit and cabin area was consumed by fire. Due to the fire and impact damage, flight control continuity could not be confirmed. The landing gear was found in the retracted position. The left fuel selector was located, and corresponded to a left main tank selection. The right fuel selector was not recovered.
The horizontal and vertical stabilizers were inverted, and came to rest on top of the rear cabin area. The right horizontal stabilizer had minor damage to the leading edge, and the left horizontal stabilizer was consumed by fire. The vertical stabilizer had minor impact and fire damage. The elevator trim jackscrew was measured, and it corresponded to an approximate 11-degree nose-up trim setting. The rudder jackscrew was measured, but it corresponded to an out-of-limit left rudder trim setting.
The inboard right wing and engine were still attached to the main wreckage. The outboard right wing was located about 20 feet to the west of the main wreckage. It had impact damage to the leading edge, and was buckled. The right aileron was found in the neutral position, and the right flap was found in the extended position. However, the flap position prior to impact could not be determined.
The inboard left wing and engine were still attached to the main wreckage. The outboard section of the left wing was found about 15 feet to the west of the main wreckage. The left aileron was displaced upward, and the left flap was suspended in a tree, about 30 feet above the ground. The aileron trim could not be measured. The left wing sustained impact damage to the leading edge, and was buckled.
The air filter was removed from the left engine. About 1/2 of the filer was covered with ice, which was about 1/2 inch thick. Additionally, the alternate air valve was found in the closed position. The top six spark plugs were removed from the engine. Their electrodes were black and sooty. The engine crankshaft was rotated by hand, and thumb compression was attained on all cylinders. The valve covers were removed, and camshaft, crankshaft, and valve train continuity were confirmed. While rotating the crankshaft, the right magneto produced current at all top leads. The left magneto was removed and rotated by hand, and it produced current at all top leads. The propeller had separated from the left engine, and was found about 10 feet to the north of the main wreckage. Some "S" bending was observed on the three propeller blades.
The right engine sustained fire damage, and the propeller remained attached to the engine. The propeller blades were bent slightly rearward. The air filter was removed from the right engine, and was charred. The alternate air valve was found in the open position. The top six spark plugs were removed from the engine. Their electrodes were black and sooty. The engine crankshaft was rotated by hand, and thumb compression was attained on all cylinders. The valve covers were removed, and camshaft, crankshaft, and valve train continuity were confirmed. While rotating the crankshaft, both magnetos produced current at all top leads.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot expired 6 days after the accident. No autopsy or toxicological testing was performed.
According to the FAA principle operations inspector, the operator was not certified for flight into icing conditions, so there was no mention of it in the operations specifications. The inspector added that FAR 135.227 addressed flight into icing conditions.
Review of FAR 135.227(c) revealed:
"Except for an airplane that has ice protection provisions that meet section 34 of Appendix A, or those for transport category airplane type certification, no pilot may fly-
(1) Under IFR into known or forecast light or moderate icing conditions; or (2) Under VFR into known light or moderate icing conditions; unless the aircraft has functioning deicing or anti-icing equipment protecting each rotor blade, propeller, windshield, wing, stabilizing or control surface, and each airspeed, altimeter, rate of climb, or flight attitude instrument system."
The operator did include information about icing conditions in their training manual, and the manual referred to FAR 135.227. The operator stated that the 14 CFR Part 135 certificate had been with the same FAA flight standards district office (FSDO) since 1988, and:
"We never had any problems operating our aircraft with regards to icing. We have never had any incident or violations regarding operations in icing."
Although the operator had no previous violations regarding FAR 135.227 during the past years their certificate was with the FSDO; after the accident, the FSDO initiated enforcement actions against Island Express for operating contrary to FAR 135.227.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on December 16, 2000.