On December 9, 2011, at 12:24 pm, a Cessna 421C, N421SY, known as a Golden Eagle, crashed after takeoff from Joe Foss Field Airport (FSD), in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The pilot and all three passengers were fatally injured. The intended destination was Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP), Rapid City, South Dakota.
Just after take-off the Sioux Falls Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) informed the pilot that a smoke plume was visible behind the airplane. Several witnesses also reported smoke and flames trailing from near the left engine. Reports indicate the pilot attempted to return to the airport but the nose dropped abruptly and crashed into the ground. Weather conditions at the airport were not a factor. The aircraft was equipped with two Continental Motors 375-horsepower GTSIO-520-L turbocharged, reciprocating engines. According to maintenance records, an annual inspection was completed just four days prior to the crash The left engine, was last overhauled in April 2004 and had accumulated approximately 1,500 hours since overhaul. Notably, another overhaul on the left engine would have typically been due in less than 100 hours.
According to the NTSB, the aircraft was registered to S & S Aviation LLC and operated by Quest Aviation, Inc., operating as an air taxi flight under Part 135 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Significantly, charter flights under the FAA Part 135 regulations are more stringent and have greater requirements for maintenance and operations than other general aviation flights. Although not required, like many transportation businesses, such aviation charter operators typically purchase liability insurance to provide for compensation for passengers who are injured or killed in the event of an accident.
This story is particularly heart wrenching since the passengers on this flight, including Dr. Daniel Swets, Kevin Anderson and Joshua Lambrecht, were going to Rapid City to participate in a program designed to teach teenagers about science, technology, engineering and math through a robotics competition. These men were selflessly doing what they loved for others when their lives were tragically taken.
The NTSB has initiated an investigation and will undoubtedly examine the aircraft's engine as well as review any recent maintenance that may have been performed. Kreindler & Kreindler LLP has successfully prosecuted claims on behalf of victim's families in accidents involving small twin engine aircraft like the Cessna Golden Eagle. It is important to understand the legal issues which may affect your rights and recovery in a general aviation cases, including the limitations created by the 1994 General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA). If you have any questions concerning this accident please contact us.