|photo by Jerry Search|
AOPA is urging observers to refrain "jumping to conclusions" about the cause of the crash of a Pilatus PC-12 in Butte, Mont. on Sunday. The PC-12, loaded with seven adults and seven children, has been described by several witnesses as "nosediving" into a cemetery while on short final for Bert Mooney Airport in Butte, Montana on Sunday. Although there was reportedly the potential for icing in a cloud deck at 1,500, the PC-12 is certified for known icing and Weather Underground says it was about 45 degrees F with a dewpoint of about 26 on the ground when the accident occurred. Without knowing the baggage load on the aircraft (it was a ski trip) there is nevertheless less emphasis on the possibility of overloading since half the occupants were under 10 years old and some were babies and toddlers, the children of six adults on board who were university classmates and some of whom were part owners of the aircraft.
The three young families were on their way to a ski vacation at Big Sky Resort and their original destination was Bozeman, Montana, which is closer to the resort. Why the pilot, Ellison Summerfield, a 65-year-old ex-Air Force pilot with more than 2,000 hours on the PC-12 diverted to Butte is not known. He did not give a reason in his request to air traffic control and weather conditions didn't seem to exclude an aircraft and pilot of their capabilities. There was no cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder on the aircraft. In addition to Summerfield, the victims, as reported by the New York Times, are: Erin and Amy Jacobson of St. Helena, Calif., and their children, Taylor, 4; Ava, 3, and Jude, 1; Michael and Vanessa Pullen of Lodi, Calif., and their children, Sydney, 9, and Christopher, 7; and Brent and Kristen Ching of Durham, Calif., and their children, Hailey, 5, and Caleb, 3.