Photo of separated section of empennage with vertical and horizontal stabilizers and rudder attached.

Separated section of empennage with vertical and horizontal stabilizers and rudder attached.  ​​

Crash of Ravn Connect Flight 3153

Investigation Details

What Happened

​​​​​On October 2, 2016, about 1157 Alaska daylight time, Ravn Connect flight 3153, a turbine-powered Cessna 208B Grand Caravan airplane, N208SD, collided with steep, mountainous terrain about 10 nautical miles northwest of Togiak Airport (PATG), Togiak, Alaska. The two commercial pilots and the passenger were killed, and the airplane was destroyed. The scheduled commuter flight was operated under visual flight rules (VFR) by Hageland Aviation Services, Inc., Anchorage, Alaska, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations(CFR) Part 135. The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation determined that instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) were likely in the vicinity of the accident site at the time of the accident. The flight departed Quinhagak Airport, Quinhagak, Alaska, at 1133 and was en route to PATG.

Data available for the accident flight showed that, after departure in visual meteorological conditions, the airplane proceeded along a generally direct route toward the destination at an altitude of about 1,000 ft mean sea level (msl), which resulted in terrain clearances between 500 and 700 ft above ground level (agl). During the last 4 minutes of the flight, the airplane climbed as it approached the mountain ridge that it eventually struck at an elevation of about 2,300 ft msl after having likely entered IMC. The airplane was equipped with a Class B terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) that had an en route required terrain clearance (RTC) of 700 ft agl; flight at altitudes below the RTC (and not within 15 miles of an airport, given certain criteria) would result in TAWS terrain alerts. Hageland flights operated under VFR were allowed to fly as low as 500 ft agl, as was seen with this flight, which was flown en route below the TAWS alerting threshold. The system was equipped with a terrain inhibit switch that allowed the pilot to manually inhibit all TAWS aural and visual caution and warning alerts. A TAWS simulation that used an estimated flightpath for the accident airplane (assuming a level cruise altitude between known data points and a climb after the last data point to the accident elevation) showed that, if the alerts were not inhibited, the TAWS would have provided continuous alerts for most of the assumed flight. The investigation concluded that the TAWS alerts were likely inhibited for most, if not all, of the flight, eliminating a margin of safety. 

What We Found

The probable cause of this accident was the flight crew’s decision to continue the visual flight rules flight into deteriorating visibility and their failure to perform an immediate escape maneuver after entry into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain (CFIT). Contributing to the accident were (1) Hageland’s allowance of routine use of the terrain inhibit switch for inhibiting the terrain awareness and warning system alerts and inadequate guidance for uninhibiting the alerts, which reduced the margin of safety, particularly in deteriorating visibility; (2) Hageland’s inadequate crew resource management (CRM) training; (3) the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to ensure that Hageland’s approved CRM training contained all the required elements of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations 135.330; and (4) Hageland’s CFIT-avoidance ground training, which was not tailored to the company’s operations and did not ​address current CFIT-avoidance technologies.

What We Recommended

​​New Recommendations

As a result of this investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following new safety recommendations:

To the Federal Aviation Administration:

  • Although controlled flight into terrain (CFIT)-avoidance training programs are not required by federal regulation for Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 fixed-wing operations, work with Part 135 operators in Alaska to improve any voluntarily implemented training programs aimed at reducing the risk of CFIT accidents involving continuation of flight under visual flight rules (VFR) into instrument meteorological conditions, with special attention paid to the human factors issues identified in recent Alaska accident investigations, including, but not limited to, (1) the challenges of flying in mountainous terrain in Alaska and low-altitude VFR flight in an area subject to rapid changes in weather; and (2) limitations of the Alaska infrastructure, particularly weather observations, communications, and navigation aids. (A-18-13)
  • Work with Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 certificate holders that operate under visual flight rules in mountainous terrain at altitudes below the required terrain clearance of the aircraft’s required terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) class to (1) ensure that management and pilots are aware of the risks associated with distraction (from continuous nuisance alerts) and complacency (brought about by routine use of the terrain inhibit feature); (2) develop plans for mitigating those risks and minimizing nuisance alerts; and (3) develop procedures that specifically address when pilots should test, inhibit, and uninhibit the TAWS alerts, considering the operator’s typical operations and the TAWS manufacturer’s guidance. (A-18-14)
  • Modify the terrain awareness and warning system requirements in Technical Standard Order C151 such that, once the alerts are manually inhibited, they do not remain inhibited indefinitely if the pilot does not uninhibit them. (A-18-15)
  • Install communications equipment throughout Alaska, after determining what would be most effective, to allow increased access to the instrument flight rules system, giving priority to those areas used by Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 operators. (A-18-16)
  • Ensure that Alaska airports that are served by Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 operators and have instrument approaches are equipped with weather-reporting capabilities to enable instrument flight rules operations in accordance with 14 CFR 135.225(a). (A-18-17) 

​To the Medallion Foundation:

  • Expand the criteria for the Medallion stars and shield to include requirements for your members to incorporate Medallion program materials into their Federal Aviation Administration-approved and -accepted training programs and manuals. (A-18-18)
  • Expand the criteria for your safety star to include requirements for a flight data monitoring program. (A-18-19)

To Hageland Aviation Services, Inc.:

  • Incorporate into your crew resource management training program ground, simulator, and flight training that define second-in-command responsibilities for dual-pilot operations, including, but not limited to, (1) the use of standard operating procedures and execution of pilot flying/pilot monitoring duties as outlined in Advisory Circular 120-71B and (2) aeronautical decision-making and judgment scenarios that are tailored to Hageland’s flight operations and aviation environment, including communications and teamwork with Operations Control Center personnel. (A-18-20)

Previously Issued Recommendations Reiterated in this Report

The National Transportation Safety Board reiterates the following safety recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration:

  • Expand the application of Federal Aviation Administration Order 8900.1, volume 3, chapter 19, section 6, “Safety Assurance System: Flight Training Curriculum Segments,” paragraphs 3-1251(B) and 3-1252, which address controlled flight into terrain-avoidance training programs for 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 helicopter operations, to all 14 CFR Part 135 operations. (A-17-38)
  • Implement ways to provide effective terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) protections while mitigating nuisance alerts for single-engine airplanes operated under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 that frequently operate at altitudes below their respective TAWS class design alerting threshold. (A-17-35)
  • Require all 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 operators to establish safety management system programs. (A-16-36)
  • Require all 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 operators to install flight data recording devices capable of supporting a flight data monitoring program. (A-16-34)​
  • ​After the action in Safety Recommendation A-16-34 is completed, require all 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 operators to establish a structured flight data monitoring program that reviews all available data sources to identify deviations from established norms and procedures and other potential safety issues. (A-16-35)
  • Require the installation of a crash-resistant flight recorder system on all newly manufactured turbine-powered, nonexperimental, nonrestricted-category aircraft that are not equipped with a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder and are operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 91, 121, or 135. The crash-resistant flight recorder system should record cockpit audio and images with 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 as specified in Technical Standard Order C197, “Information Collection and Monitoring Systems.” (A-13-12)
  • Require all existing turbine-powered, nonexperimental, nonrestricted-category aircraft that are not equipped with a flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder and are operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations 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 and images with 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 as specified in Technical Standard Order C197, “Information Collection and Monitoring Systems.” (A-13-13)
  • Encourage industry safety efforts, such as the Commercial Aviation Safety Team and the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, to identify, develop, and implement incentives for 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and 91K operators and the general aviation community to freely share pilot weather reports (PIREPs), including braking action or runway condition reports filed as PIREPs, to the National Airspace System to enhance flight safety. (A-17-25)

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