Airspace Redesign Factor In Crash?
The Thanksgiving Eve crash of a Turbo Commander near Phoenix could reignite debate over a controversial 2007 airspace redesign that substantially changed procedures for VFR aircraft flying in the area of the crash. To make more room for airliners approaching Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, the FAA lowered the floor of the Class B airspace east of Phoenix from 8,000 feet to 5,000 feet and extended it to 25 miles from the airport. The edge of that zone is within two miles of the Superstition Mountains where the Turbo Commander hit a cliff on a mountain that rises to about 5,000 feet Wednesday, killing all six people aboard, including three children. Although the NTSB is nowhere near to establishing a cause for Wednesday's crash, the airspace changes were called "overly complex" and the area of the Superstition Mountains was specifically mentioned in a 2006 letter from AOPA (PDF) to the FAA recommending major changes to the proposed airspace redesign.
The crash plane was heading from Mesa's Falcon Field to the pilot's home field at Safford, about a 45-minute flight. A webcam video of the crash does not appear to show any attempt by the aircraft to climb over the mountain. It hit a sheer rock face about 400 feet below the top of the mountain and exploded. The aircraft would have been equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS). The two pilots onboard were familiar with the aircraft and the local area.