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13th of June 2013

With a crew of three, a Saab 340B was operating an international passenger flight from Fort Lauderdale International Airport (Florida, USA) to Marsh Harbour International Airport (Bahama) on this day in aviation history. At 13.06 local time (lt) the aircraft lifted off from Fort Lauderdale with 21 passengers on board for the flight under Instrument Flight Rules to Marsh Harbour.

The aircraft in its final position (Source and © AAIA)

Climb to cruise flight level, cruise and descent were uneventful. The weather at Marsh Harbour was far from ideal as taken from the forecast. Layers of (broken or scattered clouds from 1200 feet to 24.000 feet. Heavy rain showers with thunderstorms and moderate to severe turbulence.

Runway 9 was selected as the intended landing runway by the crew, after descending from the cruise flight level the aircraft levelled off at 1500 feet ASL, on a heading of 096 degrees with an indicated airspeed of 236 knots.

As per Standard Operational Procedures, the aircraft was configured for landing as the flaps were extended in steps and the landing gear was selected and confirmed down. However, the descent and approach were flown without the required checklists being performed, While the crew was aware of the marginal weather conditions they never discussed the option of a diversion would the weather be too bad. During the approach, the crew constantly disagreed about having the runway insight or not. The approach was continued visually as the runway did not have an ILS.

The aircraft in its final position (Source and © AAIA) As the speed was constantly increasing and decreasing during the approach, the approach, therefore, was not stabilised but continued non the less. At 500 feet GL the captain took over the role of pilot flying from the co-pilot. Sometime later the window wiper on the captain's side failed. At that time the co-pilot took over the role as the pilot flying again from the captain. A few seconds before the touchdown (although he had zero visibility due to the failed window wiper) took control again from the co-pilot and became the pilot flying. What followed were a series of bounces on the runway;

  1. @13.49 and 2 seconds (lt) 1st touchdown 14 seconds after crossing the threshold, with a vertical load factor 0f +2.16G The aircraft bounced reaching a height of ~15 feet AGL

  2. @17.49 and 7 seconds (lt) 2nd touchdown With a vertical load factor of +3.19G, a pitch attitude of -1.8º (nose down!), heading 102º and an airspeed of 106 knots indicated.

Several more bounces followed the final (5th) touchdown at @17.49 and 14 seconds was recorded with a vertical load factor of +3.66G. The pitch at the time was -2.2º (nose down), heading 99º and an airspeed of 99 knots indicated. As a result of the hard touchdown, the right-wing bend upwards and the right engine failed. This resulted in the aircraft veering of to the right ~6044 feet from the runway 09 threshold. at 17.49 and 25 seconds, the aircraft came to a stop on a heading 0f 231º. An evacuation of the aircraft was initiated through the main entrance door. No injuries were sustained during the evacuation. The accident was investigated by the Air Accident Investigation Department of the Bahamas (AAID). In their report, available by clicking here, the following probable cause was identified;

"The probable cause of this accident was the decision of the crew to initiate and continue an instrument approach into clearly identified thunderstorm activity over the landing field during landing, resulting in a loss of control of the airplane from which the flight crew was unable to recover and subsequent collision with obstacles and terrain resulted during the runway excursion"

The following contributing factors were given;

  • Inexperienced and undisciplined crew.

  • Lack of crew resource management training.

  • Failure to follow company standard operating procedures.

  • Condition known as “get -home -itis” where an attempt is made to continue a flight at any cost, even if it means putting aircraft and persons at risk in order to do so.

  • Failure to retrieve, observe and respect weather conditions.

  • Thunderstorms at the airfield.

Close-up of the left engine and propellor hub (Source & © AAIA)

**EDITORIAL NOTE** The Air Accident Investigation Department of the Bahamas (AAID) has been renamed the Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority of the Bahamas (AAIA)

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