Pilatus PC-12 Crash in South Dakota
November 30, 2019
- A Pilatus PC-12 went down approximately 30 miles west of the Chamberlain airport en route to Idaho Falls Regional Airport killing 9 people.
- The National Weather Service had reported heavy snowfall, low visibility and 45 mph wind gusts.
- That model of plane did not initially meet FAA certification standards due to its wing design and hazardous stall characteristics which should be looked at as a possible explanation.
On November 30, 2019, a Pilatus PC-12 went down approximately 30 miles west of the Chamberlain airport in Chamberlain, South Dakota, killing 9 of the 12 family members aboard the plane. The aircraft was headed to Idaho Falls Regional Airport.
Although it is too early to determine the cause of the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is likely to examine several possible factors, including weather and the relay of that information by Air Traffic Control.
The plane was travelling through an area in which the National Weather Service had reported heavy snowfall and wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour with visibility less than a mile in some places. At the time, planes were unable to land at Chamberlain airport and it is unclear why the aircraft was allowed to take off under those conditions.
At this stage it will be important to investigate all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the crash, including the weather information provided to the pilot, as well as precautions taken to fly the aircraft into snow and ice, such as aircraft de-icing. We have had several cases of aircraft crashing moments after take-off caused by engine failures, so this is another important aspect to be fully investigated by the NTSB.
The Pilatus PC-12 Aircraft
The Pilatus PC-12 is a single-engine turboprop passenger aircraft which was launched in the mid-1990s. It is a popular aircraft and is used often as a corporate plane. This particular model involved in the crash was introduced by the Swiss-based manufacturer in 2007. Kreindler is keeping a close eye on this investigation as we have successfully represented families in previous Pilatus PC-12 crashes in which passengers lost their lives.
Past Kreindler Pilatus PC-12 Cases
In 2009, Kreindler partner Anthony Tarricone successfully represented the surviving family of seven individuals lost when a Pilatus PC-12 crashed just 500 feet from the runway in Butte, Montana. During that case, our investigation uncovered several critical defects with the aircraft. On the day of the crash, icing in the fuel system caused the fuel pressure to drop. That situation, along with a malfunctioning fuel pump in the left wing, led to a major weight imbalance with most of the fuel accumulating in the left wing tank. The broken fuel filter also allowed ice and other contaminants to pass to the engine resulting in a flameout and loss of electrical power. Our investigation found that because of an inadequate battery, there was not enough reserve power to operate the stick-pusher system. Altogether, these defects, along with a hazardous wing design, contributed to the accident.
In 2005, Mr. Tarricone, along with other Kreindler attorneys, successfully represented family members following a Pilatus PC-12 crash near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania which resulted in the loss of six people.
When it was first manufactured, the Pilatus PC-12 exhibited hazardous stall characteristics. To meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification requirements, Pilatus proposed that the aircraft be equipped with what is called an anti-stall stick-pusher system as a means of preventing the PC-12 aircraft from stalling and entering a spin — a condition that creates a significant risk of loss of controlled flight. However, and even though this addition to the design was certified by the FAA, the anti-stall stick-pusher system failed to perform as intended. During its approach to University Park Airport, engine failure caused the aircraft to enter a spin from which it could not recover.
History of the Pilatus
While it is too early to tell specifically what went wrong with this crash, through the years there has been intense litigation against the Swiss manufacturer of this plane, and we have learned that it has several critical design and system defects.
When the Pilatus PC-12 was initially certified, it was unable to meet FAA certification requirements relating to control of the aircraft in certain flight conditions. Because of its hazardous stall characteristics, the PC-12 necessitated special approval of an anti-stall system to work around the FAA’s certification standard. This “work-around” did not change the hazardous aerodynamic characteristics of the airplane. The PC-12 also has a history of problems in cold weather operations that affect the fuel system.
In a tragic 2009 Pilatus PC-12 crash in Butte, Montana crash (which is currently the subject of an appeal to NTSB), it was determined that despite hundreds of low fuel pressure events due to icing in the fuel, a warning was never displayed on the airplane’s Caution and Warning System due to deficiencies in the way the system was programmed.
In addition to the 2005 and 2009 Pilatus cases prosecuted by Kreindler, former military pilots and Kreindler partners Brian Alexander, Dan Rose and Justin Green are familiar with multiple cases involving the Swiss aircraft. Through prosecution and our own investigations of accidents involving the Pilatus PC-12, Kreindler has previously uncovered issues with the aircraft that were contrary to the findings of NTSB reports.