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20th of September 2019, Blog #543

With ten skydivers, one passenger and a pilot onboard a P&W PT6A powered Cessna 208B Grand Caravan took off from Pepperell Airport (Massachusetts, USA). After take-off, the aircraft climbed to an altitude of 10.500 feet where the skydivers jumped out of the aircraft.

Firefighters at the scene of the accident applying foam to the area around the aircraft. (Source; © Unknown)

The pilot initiated a return to Pepperell Airport after the skydivers had left the aircraft. The weather (recorded at a nearby airport, 5 miles away) was good and VFR conditions were recorded;

  • No clouds

  • 10-mile visibility

  • temperature 17ºC

After an uneventful descent, the aircraft was correctly configured for landing and was approaching runway 24. At an altitude of 10-15 feet above the runway, the aircraft encountered (as the pilot described it) a sudden downdraft. This caused the aircraft to land hard on the grass runway, the aircraft slid to the right-hand side of the runway and as a result, the nose landing gear failed and was torn off the aircraft. The aircraft continued to slide and crossed the airport's asphalt runway (which runs parallel to the grass runway). The right wing then hit a small tree causing the airplane to spin around its vertical axis. The left-hand wing tip then impacted the ground before the aircraft came to a stop.

The accident scene, as seen from the air, note the skidmarks in the grass. (Source; © Unknown)

There were no mechanical anomalies with the aircraft at the time of the accident. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) was alerted and an investigation was launched, as part of the investigation, the wreckage of the aircraft was inspected by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector. The inspector recorded the following substantial damage to the aircraft;

  1. Left-hand wing tip (outboard 3 feet) bent upwards

  2. Nose landing gear ripped off the aircraft

  3. Wing spar bent

Although substantially damaged the aircraft was repaired and returned to service.

The NTSB published their final report on the accident on the 28th of January 2021. They identified the following probable cause of this accident to be;

"The pilot's loss of control when the airplane encountered a downdraft during the landing approach, which resulted in a subsequent hard landing and gear collapse."

The NTSB report, on which this blog is based, is available for the readers' reference by clicking on the .pdf file below;

Windshear Cessna Caravan 02-sep-2019
Download PDF • 135KB

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