Saturday, October 11, 2008

(Virtual) Factual / Probable Cause


On October 10, 2008, at approximately 2030 Mountain Standard Time, a Beechcraft Baron 58, [redacted], was destroyed during collision with terrain while en route from Chandler, Arizona (CHD) to Carefree, Arizona (18AZ). The instrument-rated private pilot and three virtual passengers were briefly, but fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight. A visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot departed VFR from Chandler under ATC control from runway 22R, and in the absence of departure instructions from ATC, made a slow, irregular right turn through more than 180 degrees to assume a southeasterly heading. According to radar information from the Federal Aviation Administration for an aircraft identified as the accident aircraft, the aircraft entered the Phoenix Class B airspace briefly during this turn, apparently by accident, and without a clearance from ATC. The aircraft left the Class B airspace shortly after assuming its southeasterly heading. The Chandler tower controller terminated radar services for the flight and released it from the frequency during the departure turn. There was no further ATC communication with the accident aircraft.

The aircraft turned roughly east and continued in this direction between Pegasus airfield and Chandler Heights until nearly reaching the perimeter of the Mode C veil for Phoenix, at which point it turned roughly north-northeast and proceded gradually northward just outside and below the Phoenix Class B airspace. Transponder data indicate a climb to 3500 feet while beneath the Class B, then to 4500 feet after clearing the Class B and turning north. A few miles south of the highest point in the Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction, the aircraft, which had been on a heading that would bring it into conflict with the mountains, began a sudden turn to the west, but the turn was not sufficient to clear terrain and the aircraft impacted the mountain at its highest point, at an altitude of approximately 4500 feet, 500 feet below the rising mountain peak.


The probable cause of the accident was the failure of the pilot in command to maintain adequate situational awareness during nighttime VFR flight in the vicinity of mountains, aggravated by overconfidence in the ability of extensive avionics to prevent accidents during flight in complete darkness. The Class B incursion may have resulted in part from the pilot's inability to obtain an up-to-date airspace database for the aircraft's onboard GPS.

Blog Archive