Pilatus PC-12 Crash in Butte, Montana
- On March 22, 2009, a Pilatus PC-12 crashed in Butte,
- Kreindler is prosecuting a civil action against Pilatus for the crash of a PC-12 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
NTSB chairman identified similarities between the Butte crash and the crash in
following information may be helpful to those interested in the legal and
safety issues related to the March 22, 2009 crash of a Pilatus PC-12 in Butte,
airplane that crashed was a single-engine turboprop manufactured in Switzerland
by Pilatus Aircraft, Ltd. It was registered to Eagle Cap Leasing, Inc. located
in Enterprise, Oregon. Although the precise cause of the crash is not yet known,
the NTSB’s recently released Preliminary Report confirms the possibility of
several causes that have been the focus of our investigation.
flight’s original destination was Bozeman, Montana, but the aircraft diverted
to Butte, Montana while en route. Investigators do not yet know why the
diversion was made, but are exploring several possibilities, including
weather-related issues and mechanical problems. The Preliminary Report,
however, makes clear that the weather at Bozeman should not have been a
concern. Furthermore, the post-impact fire seems to confirm that insufficient
fuel to reach Bozeman was also not an issue. While mechanical failure remains a
reason for the diversion, pilots at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP believe it would be highly unusual to request a diversion for mechanical reasons
without stating so to Air Traffic Control.
The PC-12 crashed into a cemetery approximately 500 feet from the centerline of the runway it was trying to land on with its flaps, which are normally lowered for landing, still in the up position. Eyewitnesses stated that the airplane appeared too high to land on the runway and that the plane jerked sharply to the left and then “nose dived” into the ground. According to reports, the crew did not make any distress calls.
These observations are
consistent with a stall while maneuvering to land. A stall occurs when the
aircraft is flying too slow such that the wings are no longer able to produce
the necessary lift to maintain flight and the aircraft suddenly and rapidly
loses altitude. The pilot may have been trying to maneuver the plane for
landing and let the plane’s speed get too slow resulting in the sudden,
uncontrolled stall. If true, such a stall could have been caused by aircraft
design issues, icing or other stall inducing factors, such as weight and the
distribution of weight in the aircraft.
About the Pilatus PC-12
The PC-12 is known to have unusual and potentially dangerous stall characteristics. So much so, in fact, that when Pilatus Aircraft, Ltd. first sought to certify the aircraft for sale and use within the United States, the FAA required the incorporation of a “stick-pusher” system to help make the plane safer.
The stick-pusher is designed to warn pilots of impending stalls and
automatically lowers the nose of the aircraft when stall conditions are
detected to increase the lift produced by the wings and keep the plane flying.
The PC-12’s stick-shaker and stick-pusher system may be implicated here for
failing to prevent an aircraft stall. Within the past two years, the
stick-pusher system has been the subject of two safety-related Airworthiness
Directives issued by the FAA. In addition, Kreindler & Kreindler LLP is
prosecuting a civil action against Pilatus for the crash of a PC-12 on March
26, 2005, in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, where it is claimed that the stick-pusher
system failed to prevent a deadly stall.
chairman recently identified similarities between the Butte, Montana, crash and
the crash of a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Kreindler
& Kreindler represents the family of one of the victims of that crash in
lawsuits pending in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Based upon our continuing
investigation, Kreindler & Kreindler believes the Bellefonte crash was
caused by a defectively designed stick pusher system that failed to meet FAA
Preliminary Report also stated that there was a cloud layer at 8,000 feet which
may mean the aircraft could have passed through an area that was conducive
to ice formation on the plane’s wings and tail surfaces. In-flight icing is
dangerous for two reasons: first, when ice forms on an aircraft, it increases
the plane’s overall weight; second, as ice builds up on wings and tail
surfaces, it changes the way that air flows across these surfaces. The added
weight and altered airflow combine to change the fundamental flight
characteristics of the aircraft. In such situations, ice formation can result
in the plane stalling at a higher airspeed than normal and the pilot has no way
of knowing what that new stall speed is. For this reason, icing can result in
sudden, uncontrollable stalls, especially when an aircraft is slowing for the
aircraft is equipped with de-icing boots designed to inflate and deflate
periodically to prevent ice from accumulating on the leading edges of the wings
and tail, but this technology does not prevent ice from building up in other
critical areas, including immediately behind the de-icing boots. If icing is
determined to have contributed to the crash, the design and operation of the
de-icing system will have to be closely scrutinized.
have also focused on icing as a possible cause of the recent crash in Buffalo,
New York, of Continental Connection Flight 3407. The aircraft in that crash was
a Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 twin-engine turboprop, which utilizes a de-icing
system similar to the Pilatus PC-12. Kreindler & Kreindler has been
retained by the families of seven victims of the Buffalo crash.
overloading is another scenario that could explain a stall and is also being closely
examined by investigators. The PC-12 has the capacity to hold up to ten
passengers and has a maximum landing weight of about 9,900 pounds. Although
there were fourteen persons aboard the airplane, seven of them were children
between the ages of one and nine years old. Investigators have not identified
overloading as a contributing factor, but passenger and luggage weights, as
well as the weight of the fuel on board, must be determined to provide a
of the victims of the Butte, Montana crash should not feel pressured into
taking legal action. The victims’ families may be contacted by attorneys or
individuals working for attorneys over the coming weeks. The families should
know that individual state ethics laws, which govern attorney conduct, may
prohibit such solicitation of family members. It is important for victims to
take their time and consult with attorneys who are experienced in the area of
Aviation Accident Law.
have any questions or would like further information about the investigation of
the Butte, Montana crash, please feel free to contact us to speak to any of the following
Kreindler & Kreindler LLP partners handling this matter are Dan Rose, Stuart R. Fraenkel, and Will Angelley.