NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Superstition Plane Crash - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Superstition Plane Crash


The NTSB has released their preliminary report on the fatal plane crash in the Superstition Mountains, detailing what led up to the crash just 150 feet from the top of the Flat Iron peak.

Six people were killed in the crash, including a father and his three kids.

The plane had just taken off from Mesa's Falcon Field for a flight to Safford.

The report doesn't reach any conclusions, but it does say when the plane reached an altitude of 4,500 feet, it tracked in a straight line, right into the mountain, without making any evasive maneuvers.

It also says that propeller and engine damage signatures were consistent with the engines developing power at the time of impact -- which could indicate the pilot may have seen the mountain right before he hit it.

Again, these are just preliminary findings. The final report with its conclusion will take months to complete.


NTSB Identification: WPR12FA046
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, November 23, 2011 in Apache Junction, AZ
Aircraft: ROCKWELL 690, registration: N690SM
Injuries: 6 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On November 23, 2011, about 1831 mountain standard time (MST), a Rockwell International 690A, N690SM, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction, Arizona, about 5 minutes after takeoff from Falcon Field (FFZ), Mesa, Arizona. The certificated commercial pilot and the five passengers, who included two adults and three children, were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Ponderosa Aviation, which held a Part 135 operating certificate, and which was based at Safford Regional Airport (SAD), Safford, Arizona. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed.

According to several witnesses, the children's father, who was a co-owner of Ponderosa Aviation and who lived near SAD, regularly used the operator's airplanes to transport the children, who lived near FFZ, between FFZ and SAD or vice versa. According to a fixed base operation (FBO) line serviceman who was familiar with the children and their father, on the night of the accident, the children arrived at FFZ about 15 minutes before the airplane arrived. The airplane was marshaled into a parking spot adjacent to the FBO building; it was already dark. The father was seated in the front left seat and operating the airplane, and another individual was in the front right seat. After shutdown, the father and a third individual, whom the line serviceman had not seen before, exited the airplane. The individual in the front right seat did not exit the airplane; he remained in the cockpit with a flashlight, accomplishing unknown tasks, and subsequently repositioned himself to the front left seat.

The father went into the FBO to escort the children to the airplane. The father, three children and the third individual returned to the airplane. The individual in the front left seat remained in that seat, the third individual seated himself in the front right seat, and the father and three children situated themselves in the rear of the airplane. Engine start and taxi-out appeared normal to the line serviceman, who marshaled the airplane out of its parking spot.

Review of the recorded communications between the airplane and the FFZ air traffic control tower (ATCT) revealed that when the pilot requested taxi clearance, he advised the ground controller that he was planning an "eastbound departure." The flight was cleared for takeoff on runway 4R, and was instructed to maintain runway heading until advised, due to an inbound aircraft. About 90 seconds later, the ATCT local controller issued a "right turn approved" clearance to the flight. Review of the preliminary ground-based radar tracking data revealed that the takeoff roll began about 1826 MST, and the airplane began its right turn towards SAD when it was about 2 miles east of FFZ, and climbing through an altitude of about 2,600 feet above mean sea level (msl). About 1828, the airplane reached an altitude of 4,500 feet msl, where it remained, and tracked in an essentially straight line, until it impacted the terrain. The last radar return was received at 1830:56, and was approximately coincident with the impact location. The airplane's transponder was transmitting on a code of 1200 for the entire flight.

The impact site was located on steep rocky terrain, at an elevation of about 4,650 feet, approximately 150 feet below the top of the local peak. Ground scars were consistent with impact in a wings-level attitude. Terrain conditions, and impact- and fire-damage precluded a thorough on-site wreckage examination. All six propeller blades, both engines, and most major flight control surfaces were identified in the wreckage. Propeller and engine damage signatures were consistent with the engines developing power at the time of impact. The wreckage was recovered to a secure facility, where it will be examined in detail.

According to the operator's and FAA records, the pilot had approximately 2,500 total hours of flight experience. He held multiple certificates and ratings, including a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument-airplane ratings. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in July 2011, and his most recent flight review was completed in September 2011.

According to FAA information, the airplane was manufactured in 1976, and was equipped with two Honeywell TPE-331 series turboshaft engines. The airplane was recently purchased by the operator, and was flown from Indiana to the operator's base in Arizona about 1 week prior to the accident. The airframe had accumulated a total time in service (TT) of approximately 8,188 hours. The left engine had accumulated a TT since major overhaul (SMOH) of about 545 hours, and the right engine had accumulated a TTSMOH of 1,482 hours.

The FFZ 1854 automated weather observation included winds from 350 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 40 miles; few clouds at 20,000 feet; temperature 23 degrees C; dew point -1 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of mercury. U.S. Naval Observatory data for November 23 indicated that the moon, which was a waning crescent of 3 percent, set at 1605, and local sunset occurred at 1721.


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