The nine people killed and three injured in the crash of a Pilatus PC-12 near Chamberlain, South Dakota, on Saturday were all members of the same prominent Idaho family according to a report in eastidahonews.com. The aircraft reportedly came down about 12:30 p.m. shortly after takeoff from Chamberlain bound for Idaho Falls, Idaho. Local officials said the rescue and recovery was undertaken in “extreme weather conditions” and that two of the dead are children. The three injured were taken to a hospital in Sioux Falls but their conditions were not released. The survivors have been identified as men 17, 27 and 28 years old and three of the dead were identified as the patriarchs of the Hansen family: Jim Hansen Sr. and his sons, Kirk and Jim Hansen Jr. They were reportedly returning from a weekend hunting trip.
The area was under a severe winter storm warning with heavy blowing snow or freezing rain. The Chamberlain Airport AWOS recorded a 500 foot ceiling with a half-mile of visibility, a temperature of 33 degrees and a dew point of 33 degrees and a north wind at 7 knots at the approximate time of their takeoff. The area was directly in the path of a major winter storm that dumped snow in Southern California and the Grand Canyon and is expected to hammer the Great Lakes and Northeast over the next couple of days.
According to the AWOS at Chamberlain (9V9), conditions at the approx. time of the crash were half mile and overcast 500′ in snow. Air temp and dewpoint were both at 33F and the wind was out of the North at 7.
Given the overall weather conditions for the region (big winter storm), it certainly was a poor day for GA flying. There have been some news reports that the PC-12 can only carry 11 persons max — I’ll leave that for others to speculate.
Terrible, terrible tragedy — my prayers to the families of the victims and to the survivors.
I’ll let the experts assign cause but this sure smacks of a case of “get homeitis”. I cannot speak at all to the seating capacity.
Agreed that pressure to fly in these nasty conditions was probably a factor. A tragedy nevertheless.
As far as the seating capacity of the PC-12 goes, FAA TCDS A78EU states that all US validated variants of the PC-12 are 11 place airplanes (“9 PAX and 2 pilot seats”). That’s the FAA’s standard limitation for singles in this category. While a special approval could have been filed for, that would be highly unusual.
Depending on how many O2 masks are on board, one of the 12 pax could have legally been a lap child if under 2 years old.
There was that accident several years ago involving a PC12 loaded with 13 passengers. I believe over-loading was found to be a contributing cause to that crash. I wonder if over-loading and/or aft CG could have contributed to this crash as well? Heavy aircraft + icing conditions sound likely.
While perusing several news accounts of this terrible PC-12 accident today, I noticed that were several writings that said there were 12 onboard, three survived and nine were killed. Also, the report(s) were adamant that the pilot was one of those deceased, but none of them identified the pilot. I started counting the dead and discovered that the pilot had to be Kirk Hansen as he was the only one with a license, a PRIVATE one no less. This man was operating a fairly sophisticated(but very safe) aircraft in LIFR (less than 500′ and/or 1 mile vis) conditions at close to max wgt in MAXIMUM icing conditions(zero temp-dew point spread). And ONE person over the legal limit. No commercial flight could operate in or out of Chamberlain at the time he took off!! This is PILOT error personified. I flew in AK for 14 years SEL/SES.
@Walter S. — I did some online research as well and did find one news report that stated that Kirk Hansen was a licensed pilot. I did not find any news source which identified him as the pilot of the PC-12 which crashed – no doubt the NTSB will release the name of the pilot fairly early on in their investigation of the accident. I also note that FAA records show that a Kirkland Rigby Hansen of Idaho Falls is a licensed private pilot with both instrument and multi engine ratings. So assuming it is determined that he was the PIC, there is nothing in the regs to preclude him from making this flight. Of course, whether or not the airplane was legally loaded could be another question. And even if it is determined that it was a completely legal IFR flight, the decision to launch given the poor weather conditions and with having the many precious family members as passengers does appear to have been unwise. No matter what the accident investigation does reveal, there will be important lessons for all of us who fly. Continued prayers for the families of the victims and for the survivors.