The National Transportation Safety Board today determined that the probable cause of the 2008 crash in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, of a Cessna 500 was airplane wing-structure damage sustained during impact with one or more large birds (American white pelicans), which resulted in a loss of control of the airplane.
"While the Board has determined that it was the bird strike that brought down this airplane," said Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker, "this investigation also uncovered improper and noncompliant charter operations that should have been identified and discontinued by the FAA."
On March 4, 2008, at approximately 3:15 p.m. (CST), a Cessna 500, registered to Southwest Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Clinic PC of Oklahoma City, entered a steep descent and crashed about 2 minutes after takeoff from Wiley Post Airport (PWA) in Oklahoma City. Both pilots and the three passengers were killed and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire.
Major safety issues identified by this accident investigation focus on airframe certification standards for bird strikes, inadequate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enforcement of wildlife hazard assessment requirements for airports located near wildlife attractants, the lack of published information regarding operational strategies for pilots to minimize bird-strike damage to aircraft, and inadequate FAA detection of and intervention in improper charter operations.
As a result of its investigation, the NTSB issued 10 recommendations to the FAA and reiterated 1 previously issued recommendation.
Among the recommendations, the NTSB urged the FAA to revise bird-strike certification requirements for transport category (14 Code of Regulations Part 25) airplanes so that protection from in-flight impact with birds is consistent across all airframe structures. Other recommendations in this area include calling for more stringent verification of airport wildlife hazard assessments and reporting of wildlife strikes.
To correct the shortcomings uncovered in this investigation regarding federal oversight of aircraft charter operations, the NTSB wants the FAA to explore and implement strategies to improve on-site inspector surveillance activities at airports and of flight operations to detect and deter improper charter operations. The NTSB urged the FAA not only to require pilots to identify in the flight plan the operator and the operating rules under which the flight is operated, but also require the operator to provide its customers with written documentation that identifies the terms of carriage.
The reiterated safety recommendation, initially issued in 2006, urges the FAA to require aircraft equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) to be functionally tested before the first flight of each day and to perform a periodic maintenance check of the CVR.
A synopsis of the accident investigation report, including the findings, probable cause, and safety recommendations, can be found on the Board Meetings page of the NTSB's website. The complete report will be available on the website in several weeks.
A photo of American white pelican specimen on loan from the Smithsonian Institution's Division of Birds. - Larger photo at: http://ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2009/Pelicanw.jpg.