GUEST EDITORIAL. In November 1996, a departing Beech King Air 90 collided with an arriving United Express Beech 1900 commuter at the runway intersection of the Quincy, Illinois, non-towered airport. All 14 souls aboard both aircraft died in the crash and ensuing fire. In July 1996, the National Transportation Safety Board released its report on the Quincy accident, putting the blame squarely on the crew of the King Air. But AVweb reader Dan Corich, whose stepfather was one of the pilots of the King Air, raises serious questions about whether the NTSB asked the right questions or came to the right conclusions. We found Corich's letter thought-provoking.
July 21, 1997
NTSB Identification: DCA97MA009.
Aircraft #1: Beech A90, registration: N112D
Aircraft #2: Beech 1900C, registration: N87GL
Scheduled 14 CFR 135 operation of GREAT LAKES AVIATION, LTD.
(D.B.A. United Express AIRLINES)
Accident occurred NOV-19-96 at QUINCY, IL
Injuries: 14 Fatal.
On November 19, 1996, at 1703 CST, a United
Express Beechcraft 1900c, Flight 5925 collided with a Beechcraft King Air
A90, N1127D, at Quincy Municipal Airport, near Quincy, Illinois. The United
Express flight was completing its landing roll on runway 13 and the King
Air was departing on runway 24. Both pilots and 10 passengers on the 1900C
and both pilots on the A90D were killed. Both aircraft were destroyed. The
1900C was on an IFR flight plan and operating under FAR part 135. The A90
had not filed a flight plan and was operating under FAR part 91.
[NTSB Preliminary Report]
UNSEEN AND UNAVOIDED IN ILLINOIS: QUINCY COLLISION KILLS
There were 12 souls on the Beech 1900 and two others
on the Beech King Air 90 when the planes skidded into one another at the
intersection of Runways 4 and 13 Tuesday evening in an accident no one can
easily explain. With overcast skies, visibility of 10 or more and at best
the dusk light of 5:02 p.m. CST, it's conceivable that the 1900 crew thought
the King Air pilot saw their approach to Runway 13 before the 90 started
rolling on take off from Runway 4. If both crews were using the 123.0 MHz
CTAF, they apparently weren't both hearing.
[AVflash 2.47 11/25/96]
NTSB BLAMES KING AIR PILOTS FOR QUINCY CRASH
The National Transportation Safety Board Tuesday released its report into
the November 19 runway collision of two planes at the Quincy, Illinois airport.
According to the Board, the accident occurred when the pilots in the Beech
King Air 90 and a third plane in the area, a Piper Cherokee, failed to use
the local Unicom frequency properly leaving pilots of a landing United Express
Commuter to believe the runway was clear. The NTSB also noted that the Quincy
airport lacked dedicated firefighting and rescue equipment and called upon
the FAA to improve that capability at small airports.
[AVflash 3.27 07/06/97]
NOTE: The opinions expressed below are solely those of the
author, and not those of AVweb or its staffmembers.
I read your article about the NTSB conclusions regarding the Nov. 19, 1996
accident at the Quincy airport. Once again the NTSB has shown us it is incapable
of conducting a thorough, complete and independent investigation of a
transportation accident. From witnessing the NTSB Board meeting and reading
the NTSB factual reports, it was clear they were not interested in finding
the root cause of this accident.
Let me state right up front that I am not a pilot and was an aviation novice
before this accident, but have tried my best to become knowledgeable since.
Neal Reinwald, one of the King Air 90 pilots, was my stepfather. I am a concerned
family member, pursuing the truth about the causes of this tragedy...hoping
to prevent anything like it from ever happening again. I am also a U.S. citizen
who is shocked and disillusioned by what I've learned about civil aviation
and the NTSB's and FAA's unbelievable incompetence and negligence.
Since the accident, I've done a lot of investigating into the accident. I've
corresponded and talked to many people in the aviation community including
former FAA and NTSB employees, military aviation investigators, and private
aviation investigators. I discussed with them general aviation guidelines,
FAA & NTSB processes and their reputations, as well as the facts surrounding
I was surprised to find the NTSB and the FAA are held in such low regard
by most of the people I talked to. I quickly became disillusioned with the
NTSB after requesting information about the accident, and cooperating with
their investigation. All I could think to myself was that these are not very
bright people, and they don't seem to know what they're doing.
Didn't they listen to the CVR?
If you read through the NTSB conclusions and probable causes, you will see
that they are self-contradictory.
The Board concluded that the King Air pilots failed to monitor communications
and announce their intention to take off, but they also fault the Cherokee
pilot for "stepping on" communications and the United Express pilot for confusing
the Cherokee pilot (a male) for the King Air pilot (a female). But if there
wasn't any radio communication between the three planes, how could the United
Express pilots "mistake" the Cherokee pilot for the King Air pilot?
The Board also discussed the "stepping on" of radio transmissions by the
Cherokee pilot, and probably the ground proximity warning on the Beech 1900,
that interrupted radio communications. But if you go back to the transcript
of the CVR, you will see that the King Air pilot did announce her
take off from Runway 4 just over one minute before the crash. It is perfectly
normal for a plane to spend 30 or 45 or 60 seconds on a runway to complete
a checklist, particularly in the case of a training flight (which is what
the King Air flight was).
Based on the position report that the United Express pilots transmitted on
CTAF, the King Air pilots undoubtedly believed they had plenty of time to
complete their checklist and take off before the United Express plane landed.
If the United Express plane was where it said it was, at the altitude and
speed it announced, there would have been more than enough time for the King
Air to take off before the United Express plane was even close to the Quincy
Based on the CVR transcript, the United Express pilot and co-pilot had to
be fully aware that there were two other planes operating at Quincy, and
that the pilot of the King Air was a female with an unusual sounding voice.
With all this radio communication between the three airplanes involved just
minutes and seconds before the crash and the "probable" stepping on of radio
transmissions by the Cherokee pilot, I fail to see how the NTSB could reach
the conclusion that there was a failure to communicate by the King Air pilot.
Further investigation of the runways at the Quincy airport will show that
Runways 4 and 13 have a 15-foot difference in altitude which causes a "blind
spot" on the horizon when looking towards Runway 13 from Runway 4. Why weren't
Runway 13's lights turned on at dusk (expecially given the low overcast ceiling)?
The CVR transcripts show that a microphone was "clicked" to key-up the
pilot-controlled runway lights a few minutes before the accident.
How did the United Express pilots lose track of the two planes on the ground
at Quincy when the CVR transcripts clearly show they saw there were two planes
on the ground? How could they have confused the Cherokee pilot for the King
Air pilot on the radio when they had just commented about the King Air pilot's
Where was United Express, and when?
I couldn't believe the NTSB investigation didn't include a timeline of events
leading up to the accident, charting the actual locations of the three planes
involved with their complete radio transmissions. The Board should should
have investigated the altitude, speed and location of the United Express
plane as reported by ATC radar, independent of the plane's radio transmissions.
I'm convinced such an investigation would have shown that the United Express
plane couldn't have possibly been where it said it was, and that the United
Express pilots were fully aware they were "fudging" their speed and location
so they could make a fast straight-in approach to Quincy because they were
two hours behind schedule.
How did the United Express airplane approach the Quincy airport? What was
their speed and altitude and location, compared to where they said they were
on the radio transmissions? If they were six or five miles out from the airport
when they reported those positions, and if they were traveling at normal
approach speed, how did they get to the airport in such a short amount of
Why didn't United Express follow ATC instructions for altitude? They twice
disregarded ATC instructions between Burlington and Quincy.
Why hasn't it been mentioned that the United Express flight was almost two
hours behind schedule? Where and when did the United Express plane make its
left hand turn for final approach into Quincy, as they announced doing on
CTAF, when in fact they made a fast straight-in approach? Why did the United
Express pilot radio their company ground station at Quincy that they would
be landing at 5:07 pm, yet the accident occurred at 5:01 pm?
What did the last CVR comment from the United Express pilot, "We fudged in
there a little bit..." mean? I believe they were in a big hurry to get into
Quincy because they were behind schedule and very tired. They chose Runway
13, even though it was contra-indicated by the wind direction and speed.
They had been warned about making straight-in approaches to Quincy. Please
reference FAA Advisory Circular AC 90-66A:
Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices for Aeronautical Operation
at Airports without Operating Control Towers. They exceeded normal approach
speed, did not fly a normal approach profile, and transmitted inaccurate
locations during the approach.
Other factors the NTSB ignored
How could the NTSB conclude that United Express pilot fatigue was not a
contributing factor, when the factual reports show that the United Express
pilot did not go to bed before 11 pm on November 18, and then reported to
work at 4:15 am on November 19th, with approx. five hours of sleep or less,
and was completing over 13 hours on-duty time, flying eight legs in and out
of O'Hare and other cities, changing airplanes because of equipment problems,
and was running over two hours behind schedule? Why did the United Express
ground crew want to know if she "was in another bad mood" when landing at
How does the NTSB know who the Pilot-In-Command of the King Air was? The
bodies of both pilots were discovered trying to escape the King Air; they
were not in their seats. All radio communication was conducted by Laura Brooks.
And, its documented in the NTSB factual reports that the instructor-pilot
(Neal Reinwald) normally allowed the trainee-pilot (Laura Brooks) to fly
PIC on the last leg of the trip. Given the radio transmissions, and the regular
training procedures, it is logical to assume that Laura Brooks was the
Pilot-In-Command. (She was also a fully certificated pilot.)
Why didn't the NTSB have a serious discussion about the lack of control towers
at airports with scheduled airline service, whereas the Board did discuss
fire equipment and staffing at great length? An operating control tower at
this busy airport with regularly scheduled airline service would have prevented
this accident from ever happening.
I invite you to keep probing. We still don't have the answers, and the NTSB
is obviously not interested in a full investigation. A thorough investigation
would show the NTSB's and the FAA's hidden agenda to promote the airlines
at any cost, and to shield local and Federal governments from culpability.
Isn't it amazing that when an accident involves a private aircraft and an
airliner, it's always the private aircraft's fault?
Family assistance? Yeah, right!
I continue to be very frustrated with the NTSB's self-congratulation for
their performance with their newly mandated "family liaison responsibilities."
I can tell you that our family has never been contacted by the NTSB
offering any kind of assistance. We had to contact the NTSB to beg for
information about the accident from day one, and still have to constantly
ask them for reports.
A few days after the accident, I questioned the NTSB about their lack of
communication with our family. They apologized, said we "slipped through
the cracks," and reminded us that this accident was the first since the new
directive went into effect. Last January when I again questioned their lack
of communication with our family, they responded that since our family members
(Neal Reinwald and Laura Brooks) were not on a commercial aircraft, we were
not covered under their new family assistance directive.
Baloney! Nowhere in the new family assistance law are passenger families
from non-commercial aircraft excluded.
The NTSB also congratulated United Airlines for their active role in working
with the victims families, when they "really didn't have to," a comment I
found particularly disturbing coming from the NTSB, a supposedly independent
government agency. We have never been contacted by United Airlines or Great
Lakes Aviation (the United Express carrier). Basically, our family has been
treated like lepers by the NTSB, FAA and United Airlines.
I cringe whenever I see or hear media reports about what a great job the
NTSB was doing with their new responsibilities. What a farce!