A terrible tragedy hit close to home when a Socata TBM 700, N731CA, crashed near Interstate 287 following an apparent in-flight loss of control along Interstate 287 near Morristown, New Jersey. The pilot Jeff Buckalew and his family were killed, along with Rakesh Chawla, a managing director and successful investment banker with Greenhill & Co. According to the FAA instrument flight plan filed by the pilot the flight originated from Teterboro with an intended destination of Atlanta, Georgia.
According to FAA Air Traffic Control radar information, less than 15 minutes after the departure from Teterboro the airplane was climbing through 17,000 feet to 20,000 feet when it encountered icing conditions. A review of ATC communications in the vicinity reveals there were pilot reports of moderate and severe icing at altitudes at or above 14,000 feet.
According to FAA aircraft certification documents the airplane was registered to Cool Stream LLC. Mr. Buckalew held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane and reportedly had 1,400 hours of flight experience.
The Socata TBM-700 is a high performance single engine turboprop airplane. The accident aircraft was manufactured in 2005 and equipped with a Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-64 turbo-prop engine. The aircraft is certified to fly in icing conditions and is equipped with deice and anti-ice systems including de-ice boots on the wings, and horizontal and vertical stabilizers. Notably, following the accident, Daher-Socata issued a service information letter to all TBM-700 operators addressing winter operations and advising them to consult the pilot operating handbook for limitations, warnings and procedures for operating in icing conditions. An annual inspection was performed on July 27, 2011 and additional maintenance was recorded on November 18, 2011, at an aircraft total time of 724.6 hours.
While it is too early to tell, all early indications suggest that the aircraft may have encountered severe icing which led to a loss of control however the investigation is ongoing an other contributing factors to the loss of control may be discovered going forward.