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Tue, Jul 09, 2013

NTSB Prelim Focuses On Weather In Anchorage Accident June 28

Three Fatally Injured When Beech Baron Went Down

The NTSB has released a preliminary report for an accident which occurred June 28 in Broad Pass in Alaska. The accident resulted in the fatal injury of 61-year-old Dale Hemman of Steilacoom, WA ... the pilot of the Beech Baron 95-B55 aircraft ... as well as passengers 74-year-old John Ellenberg of Greenville, SC and 52-year-old Laurie Buckner of Simpsonville, SC.

According to the report, the twin-engine Beech Baron 95-B55 airplane, N5JG, was destroyed following a collision with terrain and post-crash fire in an area known as Broad Pass, about 15 miles southwest of Cantwell, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country flight under the provisions of Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The airline transport pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. At the time of the accident, instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) were reported in the area of Broad and Windy Pass. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the airplanes point of departure, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight departed Fairbanks International Airport at approximately 1000, destined for Homer, Alaska, via Windy and Broad Pass.

The accident pilot owned and operated a tour group business called “Let’s Fly Alaska”, through which pilots provide their own airplanes, and travel as a group on a guided tour from Washington and then throughout Alaska, before returning to their respective bases. He was the lead airplane in a group of 18 airplanes on an aerial tour, when the accident occurred.

The 18 airplanes were divided into two groups, a slow group and a fast group, which was determined by each airplane’s en route cruise airspeed, and each group had a separate leader. The accident airplane served as a separate leader for the entire group that would fly ahead of, and separate from the two groups to check weather and make arrangements at the next destination.

During a telephone conversation with the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) on July 1, the group leader of the fast group said the accident airplane departed approximately 10 minutes ahead of his group. As his group approached the Windy Pass area, weather conditions began to deteriorate, with low clouds, haze, and restricted visibility. He subsequently received a radio broadcast from another airplane in the area stating that the pass was not open due to poor weather conditions, so he elected to land his group at the Healy River Airport.

During a separate telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on June 29, the group leader of the slow group said that after hearing the fast group was landing at the Healy River Airport, he elected to land his group there also. After waiting approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, he departed Healy River to see if the weather had improved in Windy and Broad Pass. As he approached the area around Broad Pass, weather conditions deteriorated with thick clouds to the ground, and he returned to the Healy River Airport.

The NTSB IIC, along with two FAA safety inspectors from the Anchorage Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), and two Alaska State Troopers reached the accident site on the afternoon of June 28. The accident site was located in an area of brush and tundra-covered terrain. Portions of the burned and fragmented airplane were scattered along a debris path oriented along a magnetic heading of 345 degrees, which measured about 726 feet in length.

The closest weather reporting facility is Healy River Airport, approximately 42 miles north of the accident site. At 1053, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) at Healy River, Alaska, reported wind variable at 3 knots, visibility, 6 statute miles in haze, few clouds at 4,700 feet, broken clouds at 7,000 feet, broken clouds at 8,500 feet, temperature, 70 degrees F; dew point 55 degrees F; altimeter, 30.03 inHG.

The airplane was equipped with two 300-horsepower, Continental Motors IO-520-E engines. A postaccident engine and airframe examination is pending.

During the on-scene portion of the investigation, the NTSB IIC recovered five video cameras that were reportedly mounted at various locations on the exterior of the airplane. The cameras were sent to the NTSB vehicle recorder laboratory in Washington, DC, for audition and review.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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