Tom Horne

Prepping for show time

May 27, 2010 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Next week I’m set to give a presentation at the Pilatus Owners and Pilots Association (POPA) convention in Tulsa. My topic: Accident Insights. With the emphasis on recent PC-12 accidents.

This ought to be interesting. Telling PC-12 owners how they went wrong. Let’s see, in 2009 there were three fatal PC-12 accidents: a CFIT, a loss-of-control after an avionics malfunction, and a mysterious crash in Montana after an unexplained diversion. That Montana crash caused 14 fatalities. Hmmm, the airplane only had eight cabin seats. What can I say about these accidents? That’s what I’m mulling over. And hanging over all of this is the rumor┬áthat the parents of two of the Montana victims will be in the audience.

We’ll probably never know the direct cause for the avionics-related and Montana crashes. But the CFIT is a bit easier to understand. The pilot started the day in Akron, flew to Teterboro, worked a full day, then flew to Lubbock TX for a fuel stop, then on to Santa Fe. That’s where he hit the mountains shrouded in darkness–in good VFR weather. He’d been up for 17 hours. Oh, and he’d been diagnosed with ADHD, for which he took amphetamines. Though he didn’t report this on his airman medical exam form, it came out in the investigation. Even so, the NTSB said the probable cause was fatigue.

So, there’s a peek into 10 slides of the powerpoint. There are 44 more, but you’ll have to go to the POPA convention (it’s June 3-5, at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center) to see those. But back to the question. What to say about these recent fatals? How about: technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, but we persist in crashing because of poor judgment–and perhaps a deterioration of basic flying skills in spite of fancy avionics. That Santa Fe CFIT pilot had to be staring at three huge display screens. All of them bright red, backed up with a voice urging “terrain, pull up!”

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