AIR Flight Training focuses on detailed, scenario-based Piper PA-46 training for Malibu, Mirage, Matrix, and Meridian pilots. We arm pilots with the knowledge and experience to react in any situation.
The aircraft was a beloved Piper JetProp DLX. On the morning of March 28, 2008, the pilot departed from the Edmonton City Centre Airport (CYXD) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada carrying 4 additional passengers. They were headed toward Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Under instrument flight rules, the pilot was cleared to FL270. Shortly after arriving at the assigned altitude, air traffic controllers noticed the aircraft climbing beyond FL240. After ATC inquired about the altitude fluctuation, the pilot reported a difficulty maintaining a constant altitude, due to autopilot and gyro/horizon issues. Finally, the pilot reported a complete failure of his attitude indicator (it had toppled over).
Subsequently, a series of drastic altitude and heading changes occurred; an uncontrolled descent resulted through extensive cloud layers (little to no reference to the ground). After an analysis of radar data, it was discovered that at some point during the descent, the descent rate was greater than 30,000 feet per minute and 390 KIAS; certification testing of the aircraft did not exceed 266 KIAS. However, on final descent, the airspeed dropped to 100 knots, representative of a near vertical flight path (falling through the sky). The aircraft impacted a snow covered river valley, and none of the five souls survived.
Evaluation of the accident site(s) confirmed that the aircraft suffered structural failure during the descent, caused by overloading. Most likely, the pilot entered into a spiraling dive, and overloaded the aircraft during a recovery attempt(s). The JetProp broke up in the air and wreckage was scattered over a span of nearly 2 nm.
Notable Causes and Contributing Factors:
- Lack of maintenance of the instruments and the vacuum system
- The pilot had not practiced partial-panel operations for several years. He was unable to adequately apply partial-panel technique during flight through IMC.
- The aircraft was loaded beyond its certified gross weight AND beyond the CG aft limit.
- The pilot did not reduce the airspeed while attempting to regain control of the aircraft.
- There were no quick-donning oxygen masks on board and the pilot was not wearing an oxygen mask at the time of the occurrence, which was required by regulation.
While an accident like this is tragic, it also provides an opportunity to learn something. How can you apply lessons from this case to your flying?
- Are you proficient in partial-panel operations?
- Do you always sufficiently evaluate the weight and balance before a flight?
- Are you required to carry quick-donning (or other) oxygen masks/systems?