King Air Sheds Parts, Lands Safely

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Cockpit checklists and procedures, along with radar data collection, will now become key players as the NTSB takes on the investigation of the King Air B200 (N777AJ) headed from Rogers, Ark., for Stanton, Va., last Friday morning. The twin turboprop encountered complications after suffering a shattered (but not blown out) windshield at 27,000 feet and ultimately raining parts down on an aeromedical helicopter flying below. The helicopter was not struck by debris and the King Air landed at Cape Giraradeau, Mo., with serious structural damage, including buckled wing skins and empennage and much of the horizontal stabilizer and elevator missing. Otherwise, it landed safely. The King Air's pilot, Sheldon Stone, said in early reports that the aircraft suffered a shattered left windshield at altitude and he then depressurized the cabin to prevent a blowout. He and his copilot then donned their oxygen masks and turned on the valve, but no oxygen appeared to be forthcoming. The sole-occupant pilots then passed out. Stone, a 4,200 hour ATP-rated pilot, told a local paper that he awoke at 7,000 feet and recovered the aircraft.

According to the aircraft's flight track as provided by FlightAware, the aircraft reached 27,000 feet just after 7:00 a.m. It cruised at that altitude until 7:17 when it went to 25,900. At 7:18 the aircraft was at 25,400 but a minute later was back at 27,000 and had slowed from 417 to 104 knots ground speed, further slowing to 44 knots at 7:20, according to FlightAware. At 7:22, the position report showed holding 27,000 feet and 102 knots. One minute later, the radar indicates 125 knots at 7,800. Aberrations earlier in the minute-by-minute reporting (from 6:49 to 6:50, the aircraft is shown to jump from 17,000 to 27,000 then back down) suggest the data may not be entirely accurate. But the data seem to follow roughly with the pilot's initial comments and damage suffered by the aircraft.

The "abnormal checklist" for a cracked windshield specifies a descent to 10,000 feet or other methods to reduce the pressure differential to less than 3 PSI within 10 minutes, according to the King Air pilot operating manual. The NTSB is continuing its investigation of the accident. For more photos and audio of an eyewitness account, click here.