Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Plane in Montana Crash Had 13 Passengers, 10 Seats

The NTSB says the turboprop plane that crashed in Butte, Montana, and killed 14 (seven children and seven adults), had 13 passengers and 10 seats.

"We are going to have to try and understand how, and why, there were three additional people on board the aircraft." Mark Rosenker, the acting NTSB chairman, said at a press conference on the scene.

The plane was fractionally owned by eight people, most of them related and several on board with their children when it crashed.

Remaining questions, aside from the obvious one, what caused the accident:

--The plane made several stops to pick up passengers in California en route to Bozeman, Montana, near where the group planned a ski and golf holiday. The pilot had filed a flight plan and, presumably, there was a passenger manifest. Are there no regulations in place to ensure that there are not too many people packed into a private passenger aircraft (and this one was a top-line Pilatus PC-12 turboprop, a model that is used as regional airliners in commercial service)?

--Why did the pilot divert from Bozeman to Butte?

--Where, oh where, was/is the FAA and the air-traffic control evidence-trail? Presumably, air-traffic control was involved in some part of that aircraft's final journey. The FAA has been veeeery quiet. The highly regarded NTSB, which is frequently at odds with the not-so-highly-regarded FAA, is pressing on this, I hear.

--And this may be a dumb question (comments, advice would be appreciated), but why is there no radar or air traffic control at the Butte airport -- an airport that has commercial airline service via Delta Connection/SkyWest?

[UPDATE: Please do see the dissenting comment (below) about ATC, etc. from an anonymous reader who appears to know what he or she is talking about.]


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Meanwhile, another Montana crash story, without comment out of respect for the above:

In Billings, Montana, says the AP, friends of a Sparky Imeson, a pilot killed last week in a crash in southern Montana, say he had set out to photograph the site where he had crashed two years ago.

Says the AP:

"The 64-year-old Imeson took off alone from the Bozeman airport. Two friends say he had intended to document the site of a 2007 crash in the Elkhorn Mountains that left him with a compression fracture to his back, broken ribs, a broken toe and cuts on his head." The wreckage of his Cessna 180 was found last Thursday.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"why is there no radar or air traffic control at the Butte airport"

Simply put, because there's not enough traffic to justify it. There are a fairly large number of airports served by commercial air carriers that lack full-time ATC (or that lack ATC services entirely).

I don't see what this has to do with anything, however. In all likelihood, the pilot got slow on final, stalled, and spun it in. The NTSB probably doesn't have enough evidence to say for certain that the aircraft was loaded with an aft center of gravity, but if it was, spin recovery would be that much harder. This is also likely irrelevant in the greater scheme of things, as it's virtually impossible to recover from an unintentional spin in ANY aircraft below 1000' above the ground.

While there are regulations covering the loading of aircraft even in Part 91 operations (which it's beginning to sound like this was), that no more stops someone from overloading an aircraft than seatbelt laws stop people from driving without seatbelts on.

See also Joesharkey.com said...

Thanks for this. JS

Anonymous said...

Oh, also, there wasn't a passenger manifest because, as I previously noted, this aircraft was likely operating under Part 91 rules, and manifests aren't required (nor is there normally any reason for one).

Anonymous said...

This just in:

http://www.ainalerts.com/ainalerts/alerts/032609_PF.html

It appears that, under Part 91, it's entirely possible that the number of passengers on board was perfectly legal. (There's probably never going to be any way to determine whether the CG at the time of the crash was within limits, however.)