The NTSB says a Pilatus PC-12 medevac aircraft broke up in flight shortly after taking off from Reno Airport on Friday night. All five people aboard the Care Flight aircraft were killed when the aircraft suddenly disappeared from radar as it was climbing on departure from Reno International Airport to Salt Lake City Friday evening. The wreckage was found near Dayton, Nevada, about 24 miles southeast of Reno. The missing parts were about 1200 yards from the main wreckage.
Flight trackers showed the plane at about 19,000 feet before contact was lost. According to an ATC recording, a controller had just warned the pilot of generalized light to moderate turbulence in the area and the pilot said he was climbing to 25,000 feet. A winter storm was hitting the area at the time.
The NTSB sent a full investigation team of 11 members to the site and held a news conference on Sunday to discuss their initial findings. The investigators said part of the right wing, the horizontal stabilizer and elevator all separated from the plane. Although ATC had notified the pilot about the possibility of turbulence, the NTSB said there had been no reports that would have warranted cancelling the flight. “It was pretty much a normal evening,” NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg told the news conference. The pilot, a nurse, a paramedic, the patient and a relative of the patient were on the aircraft.
While it would’ve added another fatality to this accident, I feel like these types of flights should require a copilot.
Why is that?
Just seems risky to have a single point of failure in that type of environment. The patient had two professionals to attend to them. Maybe the plane should have as well.
Certainly that would hold true if this was a case of spatial disorientation. Wouldn’t have made any difference if the plane was torn apart by extreme turbulence, but that’s rare; usually that’s pilot aided.
Agreed. Fair point.
…But then, maybe a copilot could have offered alternate choices that wouldn’t have ripped the plane apart?
I agree, and thought these flights had two pilots.
Single pilot IFR nighttime in an ice storm. No way to know just yet with the circumstances of the crash work, but I can picture many scenarios were a copilot would have saved the mission.
Was not work…
These type of flights do require a SIC unless the company has the ops spec which allows for an operating autopilot to substitute for the second pilot. As another poster pointed out inflight breakup due to turbulence is rare, especially since it is known that the flight did reach FL190. Also there is no indication in this article of wreckage scattered over a wide area which would happen if plane broke up in flight. With a departure in a snowstorm, icing overwhelming the airplane or not turning on the ice protection could have happened. I wonder if anyone with PC12 experience could comment on the ability of the plane to handle ice. RIP.
Just found out from another site the NTSB has found that there was an inflight breakup of this plane. Part of a wing and the elevator was found about 3/4 mile from the fuselage. As far as why, hopefully the NTSB can figure that out. RIP.
There’s an article on February 23rd titled: “Instructor Dies During Flight, Pilot Thought He Was Joking”. Incapacitated pilot is so rare how could it possibly happen twice in a week?
copilot would have just added to body count. Crew has got to be able to know when to leave it in the hanger. Just takes experience to spot the “pilot killer” storms…….this had all the earmarks of one……..
There is not enough information to come to that conclusion.
“ generalized light to moderate turbulence”
“ the NTSB said there had been no reports that would have warranted cancelling the flight.”
“It was pretty much a normal evening,”
These are “earmarks of a pilot killer”?
Why can we just say NO? Sad.
At 19k msl (10-15k agl) cruise climb with missing components less than a mile from main wreckage, inclined to believe inflight break up was symptom of LOC, not cause. Icing/turb leading to autopilot issues and/or distraction of single pilot could be factors, hopefully enough data survives to develop answers.
I saw the flight track all was good then it started to spiral down before contact was lost. With the autopilot this plane has you have to wonder how this could happen? Maybe severe icing the deicing equipment couldn’t handle? I am sure the missing pieces would show that? Pilot incapacitation would be my guess but waiting on the experts to come to a conclusion.
“It was pretty much a normal evening,” NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg told the news conference.
An improper and significantly incorrect opinion by a Board member who should know better. The general weather system was one of the worst in years.
Maybe another one of those untracked balloons that are so prevalent now.
Russ, you do a great job, but this report is very misleading. Please watch the various videos available online with the flight radar profile of this flight. This airplane did not break up at FL19 in normal flight. This pilot lost control in IMC—perhaps due to spatial disorientation and task saturation—most likely after the autopilot was disengaged or disengaged itself in challenging conditions. Parts falling off the plane virtually certainly did not cause this crash. The parts were found quite close to the main wreckage. So they most likely fell off during the last part of the incredibly fast plummet to earth due to excessive speed, excessive g load, or both, long after positive control of the aircraft was lost by the pilot. The general public will believe based on your report and others that this PC12 was just flying along, started shedding parts due to turbulence or something, and then crashed as a result. Not true! And this feeds unwarranted fears among the general public of commercial planes breaking up in normal flight, which is vanishingly rare. Please edit your report to reflect what the radar data and location of the separated parts strongly indicates about when they left the aircraft. Thanks. Keep up the good work.
In a word, no. You’re asking me to analyze and reach conclusions on the cause of the accident and I’m neither qualified nor do the resources you cite contain all the information needed to reach those conclusions. We present hard facts as they become available and never speculate on cause. Anything else is irresponsible guesswork.
“The NTSB says a Pilatus PC-12 medevac aircraft broke up in flight shortly after taking off from Reno Airport on Friday night.
Both the headline and this opening paragraph are extremely misleading, for starters. The aircraft did not just ‘break up’ spontaneously shortly after takeoff. Imho it’s irresponsible to report news like this.
I guess it depends on your definition of “shortly.” And nowhere does it say the plane broke up “spontaneously.” The story accurately reports the facts of this accident although more information is available now than at time of writing. Instead of “shortly” I could have given a more precise timeline.
The average non-pilot–and non-pilot reporters who will parrot you–may very well believe you are saying that the ‘breakup shortly after t/o’ caused the crash, which is implied though not stated. (I have seen it out there already.) I guess we will just agree to disagree, but I think this report does a disservice to aviation in the public consciousness.
I wonder how well instrument qualified pilots can actually fly with basic instruments? I have personally spent the most rewarding moments in the air in a glider in the clouds with only a clock, yaw and tilt, variometer and altimeter as help. I got the speed information from the sounds of the air flow, because the pitot tube is the first to freeze. I have had some flights in autumn when the last ice comes off the wings in the finale.
Is it legal to fly a non IFR glider in IMC? In known ice?
I’d not post that on a public forum if it is not…
So you do that often then?
Turns out a glider can be operated in IMC:
“IFR flight by a glider will normally require
the designation of an area of operation rather than a route since
the mode of flight will normally include low speed, circling flight,
drifting cross-country at about the same speed as the wind aloft and
an inability to maintain a preselected altitude or ground-directed
heading. The dimensions of the area and altitudes shall be determined
by mutual agreement between the operator and facility. The capability
of the pilot to communicate with the Center should be considered in
approving the flight.”
I see no exception to the sue of a VFR only glider in IMC however.
It also appears that they are allowed in airspace Alpha with some equipment requirements although I don’t think the pilot needs an instrument rating.
Odd and interesting.
As an instrument pilot I’d oppose allowing a non rated aircraft, powered or not, with a VFR pilot in IMC with me.
Broke up climbing to altitude OR broke up in an uncontrolled dive (overspeed)???
Not enough coherent information here to understand what really happened.
Another site I saw indicated the pilot was very experienced. Who knows but it could have been overloaded with ice with subsequent loss of control or the pilot suffered incapacitation. The breakup apparently happened during high speed/high g descent. Tail plane and right wing were found apart from the main wreckage.
Reminds me of a PC-12 break-up over Morristown, NJ some years ago. NW winds from the Great Lakes near freezing at the surface, and icing reports and pilots begging for altitude changes.
Reading between the lines it was a personal flight with family and a friend from MMU to spend Christmas in Georgia which I believe is about the range of this plane.
Assuming he’s heavy and digging hard for altitude to make Georgia without an extra stop. During climb and at about 17k ft accident pilot told ATC the conditions were not a problem when the aircraft suddenly started down never regaining control. Plopped down on I-287 with some important parts strewn in the trees. It too happened SHORTLY after takeoff, during climb out.
You might be referring to the TBM-700 (N731CA) crash in 2011, also a single engine turboprop, but not a PC-12. That crash was clearly the result of ice. This one is not clearly the result of ice, if you look at the radar data. It looks a lot more like loss of control due to spatial disorientation after the autopilot was turned off or switched itself off. Icing might have played a role in the autopilot disengaging. Interesting there was no distress call. The NTSB will hopefully work it out over the next 2-3 years. One thing is pretty clear, though: the parts that separated from this aircraft are not likely to have caused this crash.
What a sad commentary. The facts, -–––––– It was a PC12, it reached FL190 and at this stage, anything else is sheer speculation which is neither helpful nor an expansion of our knowledge.
I wonder why these folk thought it necessary to write their speculative viewpoint in the first place?
Because many if not all of the folks know what they’re talking about.
Situation could have encompassed severe icing; followed by autopilot chasing the parameters resulting in an overstressing of the airframe components.
I was surprised to read this was single pilot night IFR in ice… and a medevac flight. Why? Even if it was one of the time builder instructors in the copilot seat… it sounds better to me.
I recall years back a number of episodes in which Piper Malibu aircraft experienced in-flight break ups. I think to the point that the flight operations of the aircraft were severely restricted until the problem was worked out. I also recall that after investigation the likely problem was use of the autopilot in vertical speed climb mode (rather than airspeed mode) without proper monitoring. The airplane would pitch back trying to keep the VS until stall, then an abrupt maneuver to recover would break the airframe. Enhanced pilot training was the final fix, no changes to the aircraft. Is my memory correct, and could that be a factor here? I can’t take the discussion any further because I’m not familiar with PC-12 or it’s autopilot.
It’s a tragedy; we have to draw some knowledge from the event if we can.
The known circumstances of this incident suggest spatial disorientation leading to loss of control, resulting in overstressing the aircraft and structural failure prior to impact–an all too common fact pattern.
Why can we just say NO? Sad.