They Died at the End of a Long Duty Day of Six Sectors
U.S. News - October 24, 2004

  Plane Said Lacked Enhanced Warning System  
October 22, 2004 12:08 PM EDT  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A commuter plane that crashed while approaching an airport this

Investigators combed through the wreckage of a commuter plane near Kirksville (Mo.) Regional Airport on Wednesday. The twin-engine turboprop plane crashed Tuesday night (19 Oct 04)

 week lacked an updated system that warns pilots who fly too low, equipment that will be required next year, investigators said.

Instead, the Corporate Airlines twin-engine turboprop had an earlier version of the terrain warning system that met current regulations, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said.

The 19-seat Jetstream 32 was en route from St. Louis to Kirksville Regional Airport in north-eastern Missouri when it crashed Tuesday, killing 13 of the 15 people aboard. It was the worst civilian air crash in the United States since 21 people were killed Jan. 8, 2003, in a crash in Charlotte, N.C.

The role of the cockpit warning system was "just one of many aspects of the investigation," Holloway said Friday.

Information from the plane's voice and data recorders and traffic control tapes suggest the plane's approach to the airport was routine, said Carol Carmody, who is leading the team of NTSB investigators.

The data show the plane descending steadily, then climbing slightly in the last four seconds, she said. Investigators were still determining exactly how far above the ground the plane was at that point.

The flight was the sixth of the day for the crew, who had been on duty nearly 15 hours that day, within FAA-approved limits, investigators said.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the terrain-warning system installed by next March 29 in commercial planes with at least six seats. It displays the surrounding area on a cockpit screen. If the plane flies dangerously near the ground or an obstacle, such as a building, a computer-generated voice calls out a warning.

The older system shuts off automatically during landing.

A spokesman for Smyrna, Tenn.-based Corporate Airlines, which operated the flight under contract with American Airlines' commuter service, said Friday the new system had been installed in two of the 11 planes in service.

"They were complying with the regulations in place. It's just sad that they hadn't gotten around to doing it," said John David, deputy chairman of the National Safety Committee for American Airline's pilots union.

Carmody said the captain can be heard on the flight recording spotting the airport. "Thirteen seconds later there was the sound of an impact on the recording, and three seconds later the recording ended," she said.

"There was no change in direction, speed or heading. There was no emergency call from the aircraft," she said.

She declined to speculate on whether the weather may have played a role in the crash. Skies were overcast and misting, with thunderstorms in the area.

The aircraft's maintenance records over the last 30 days were "very unremarkable," she said.

The two survivors, Dr. John Krogh, 69, and his assistant, Wendy Bonham, 44, remained hospitalized. Carmody called their survival "remarkable."

Most of the passengers were heading to a medical conference in Kirksville.

--- from link

On the Net: Corporate Airlines

Downed plane lacked cockpit safety device


More on this story
  • More about airports, airplanes and flying
  • Recent stories about plane crashes and train accidents

  • Post or read comments in our online forums


  • USA Today
    October 22, 2004

    The Corporate Airlines plane that crashed Tuesday in Missouri was months away from having a safety device installed to prevent pilots from accidentally flying into the ground at night or in bad weather, a spokesman for the company said Thursday.

    Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board have not yet said why the commuter plane crashed into a wooded area about 2 miles from the Kirksville Regional Airport. The crash killed 13 people. Two others escaped the burning wreckage.

    However, one likely cause of the crash is that the pilots accidentally flew the Jetstream 32 into the ground during darkness and fog, said Stuart Matthews, president of the non-profit Flight Safety Foundation. Moments before, the plane was directly on course with the runway and the pilots had reported no problems, the NTSB says. Flying a plane into the ground during low-visibility conditions is the single biggest killer in aviation around the world, according to accident statistics.

    Because this problem has caused so many accidents, the Federal Aviation Administration required that "terrain avoidance warning systems" be installed on all airline planes with six or more seats by March 29.

    Corporate Airlines, which flew 17 of the 19-seat commuter planes under contract for American Airlines, had not completed installing the warning devices, said John Hotard, an American official acting as a spokesman for Corporate. Corporate planned to install the devices on all its planes before the deadline, he said.

    The terrain warning systems have been so successful that manufacturers and safety experts say there hasn’t been a single inadvertent crash into the ground involving a plane equipped with the system. It costs $25,000-$35,000 for a small regional aircraft, according to Honeywell, which makes a version of the systems.

    "It is one of the true breakthroughs in aviation safety," said Capt. John Cox, safety chairman for the Air Line Pilots Association. "If you’re carrying passengers, it should be in the airplane."

    The warning system has a computerized map of the world’s terrain that lists every hill, radio tower and skyscraper. If pilots stray too low, a computerized voice automatically calls out: "Terrain! Terrain!" If pilots do not respond, it orders: "Pull up! Pull up!"

    It is specifically designed to prevent pilots from getting too low as they approach airport runways. It also warns pilots if their plane begins to descend too quickly or if they steer too close to a mountaintop.

    from link

    to Safety Menu