King Air Suffers Severe Damage After Depressurization
The partial failure of a windshield and the rapid decompression
of the cabin nearly resulted in the total loss of a King Air and
its crew over the weekend. While details are coming mostly from
general media reports for the moment, video of the aircraft and its
emergency landing have provided significant evidence that an
inflight failure of the aircraft resulted in a rapid, and possibly
uncontrolled descent that nearly caused the aircraft, a Raytheon
King Air B200, to break apart.
According to media reports, the aircraft experienced a partial
failure of the windshield at an altitude well in excess of 20,000
feet, creating a spider web type of failure ont he windshield and
the decompression of the cabin. Media reports also suggest that the
flight crew lost consciousness of, and/or control of the aircraft,
resulting in some mode of control recovery below 10,000 feet
(reported as 7000 feet by at least one media outlet). The aircraft
subsequently executed an emergency landing at Cape Girardeau
Regional Airport in Missouri.
Examination of the video (seen in the attached screen
captures), shot by KFVS, which also caught the fairly uneventful
emergency landing, reveals the loss of most of the horizontal
stabilizer and elevator assemblies, wrinkled and bent main wings
and a windshield that was nearly useless, visually, due to
pervasive spiderweb-style cracking throughout its surface.
Statements attributed to the pilots (who left the area by rental
car, shortly after landing), indicated that they regained control
of the aircraft below 10,000 feet where the aircraft was involved
in a steep vertical descent and (then) not under positive control.
The subsequent recovery created severe stresses on the aircraft and
the wrinkling and bending evident in pictures of the wing suggests
that aircraft was stressed in a manner not too far form the
ultimate structural yield point.
Cape Girardeau Airport Manager, Bruce Loy, told local media
outlets that this was, "The most amazing situation I've ever
seen..." and expressed surprise that an aircraft with this amount
of damage could still be flown. The flight crew was identified as
Pilot Sheldon Stone and co-pilot Adam Moore who indicated that
emergency oxygen equipment failed when they attempted to use it.
Despite that, they regained functional consciousness after
descending some 20,000 feet. Pilot Stone told local media that "We
were both getting drunk really fast. I remember thinking, really
slowly, 'Hey, I'm not getting any oxygen, what's wrong here?' But I
was so loony already at that point I couldn't even solve the
problem if it could be solved. I just sort of thought to myself,
'I've got to hurry,' but everything was fading."
While no one can deny that the flight crew was both skilled AND
lucky, one media report suggests that a higher power may have had a
hand in this incident. It seems that the prior owner of the
aircraft was an Assembly of God Christian association. Indeed, the
N number, N777AG, had "biblical significance" that combined a 'holy
number' and the initials for the Assembly of God.
The aircraft, N777AJ, is registered to Horizon Timber
Services Inc, Of Arkadelphia, Arkansas. More info to follow...