WPR12LA116
WPR12LA116

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On February 25, 2012, about 0525 Pacific standard time, a Beech S35, N272D, collided with terrain during takeoff from Dixie Valley Airport (NV30), Fallon, Nevada. The airplane was operated by Danny Lee Urquhart, doing business as Dan Urquhart, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 as an on-demand air taxi flight. The airline transport pilot and two passengers were not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the forward fuselage and both wings during the accident sequence. The cross-country flight departed Dixie Valley about 0524, with a planned destination of Fallon Municipal Airport (KFLX). Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had been filed.

The purpose of the flight was to return the two passengers, who were employed at a geothermal power plant located in the foothills 1.5 miles west of the airport. The power company utilized the air taxi service to transport employees to and from the plant after shift changes, due to its remote location.

Dixie Valley Airport was located on a plain, flanked to the northwest by steep mountainous terrain. The pilot reported that he typically lands on runway 34, and departs from runway 16, due to the rising terrain northwest of the runway.

Earlier in the morning, the pilot flew into Dixie Valley Airport with two passengers for the power plant. Prior to landing, he overflew the airport to assess the wind conditions. He began an approach to runway 34, and encountered moderate turbulence. As such, he elected to discontinue the landing, and maneuver the airplane for an approach to runway 16. He landed the airplane uneventfully, and deplaned with the passengers. He then drove up to the power plant to pick up two passengers for the return flight.

After returning to the airplane with the passengers, the pilot performed an engine ground run-up, and positioned the airplane for departure on runway 16. The windsock indicated a 90 degrees right crosswind for runway 16, at a velocity he estimated to be gusting about 14 knots. The ground roll was uneventful, and just after rotation, he observed the windsock shift to a tailwind. He then felt the sensation of the airplane sinking. The pilot was confident that once the airplane descended low enough to be influenced by ground-effect conditions, he would be able to regain enough airspeed to continue the climb. Shortly thereafter, the propeller blades struck the ground, and the airplane slid to a halt in the dirt. The airplane came to rest about 2,400 feet beyond the departure end of the runway.

One of the passengers corroborated the pilot's report. He stated that he boarded the airplane, and as it taxied to the runway, he laid his head back, and closed his eyes in order to rest. The airplane began the takeoff roll, accelerated appropriately, and he did not hear any unusual noises. Shortly after takeoff, he felt the airplane sink, and he felt lighter. He was not concerned, as this had happened on multiple occasions on prior flights. A few seconds later the airplane struck the ground, bounced, and then landed hard.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The pilot filed a round-robin flight plan from Fallon to Dixie Valley, which he activated during the inbound flight. About 50 minutes prior to departing Fallon, he checked the weather utilizing an online computer service. He then followed up 35 minutes later with a call to both the Fallon Naval Air Station automated weather observation system, and the power plant. The power plant reported wind of about 6 knots. He stated that these were the established weather briefing procedures utilized before each flight, and that calling the power plant was necessary because it was common for un-forecast fog to settle in the area. He further stated that due to the position of the plant relative to the foothills, the wind conditions often did not reflect that of the runway. Additionally, he received a weather briefing in-flight from the flight service station briefer while filing the inbound flight plan. He stated that the briefing included the dissemination of AIRMETS (Airmen's Meteorological Information) for moderate turbulence along the route of flight. He reported that he has flown passengers to and from this location regularly for many years, and such wind conditions were common for the area.

A representative from Lockheed Martin Flight Service provided details of the in-flight weather briefing. The briefing lasted about 2 minutes, during which time the pilot was notified of the existence of moderate turbulence in the area, as well as an AIRMET for low-level wind shear. The pilot responded that he was aware of the conditions.

A weather observation station was located at Fallon Naval Air Station, 60 miles southwest of the accident site. An aviation routine weather report (METAR) was recorded at 0456. It reported: wind from 290 degrees at 15 knots gusting to 25 knots; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 8 degrees C; dew point minus 17 degrees C; altimeter 30.02 inches of mercury. The observation station further reported that at 0412 a peak wind of 30 knots occurred out of the west.

The pilot reported no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.

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