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29th of April 1993

An Embraer EMB-120RT Brasilia was operating a scheduled domestic flight between Litlle Rock (Arkansas, USA) and Houston (Texas, USA) on this day in aviation history. Onboard a crew of 3 and 27 passengers. After an uneventful take off the aircraft was climbing out of Littel Rock to its assigned cruise level.

The aircraft in its final position.


During the climb to FL220, the cabin attendant asked the flight crew if they could increase the rate of climb, so she could start the service while the aircraft was in level flight without having to move the catering trolly uphill. The captain agreed to this and stated "Okay, we'll try to get up a little more, we're almost there". for the next 4 1/2 minutes, the captain and the cabin attendant chitchatted while the first officer was busy with paperwork. The pitch attitude of the aircraft increased from 3.2º to 5.2º over 18 seconds, while the vertical speed increased from 420 ft/min to 900 ft/min. While climbing through 16.100 feet the indicated airspeed had dropped from 173 knots to 166 knots. The pitch angle continued to increase to 6.4º with the speed dropping to 141 knots Indicated Airspeed. At 15.33 local time, the autopilot disconnected and the stick shaker activated, followed by the aural stall warning. Just after the Captain had noticed something was wrong. Over the next (approximately) 1 1/2 minutes the crew attempted to regain control of the aircraft. The aircraft rolled 90º left and right while the pitch dropped as low as -67º (nose down) and the speed increased the 210 knots, with the vertical speed reaching 17.000 ft/min.

The plot of the last miles of the approach to Pine Bluff, not the overshoot and the late touchdown point. (Source and © NTSB)

Finally, at 55oo feet altitude, the crew regained contrail. The left engine was shut down on command from the captain, as three of the four propellor blades had broken off, and the engine cowlings were partly missing. It also appeared to be out of alignment, An emergency was declared with ATC, requesting a diversion. ATC cleared the aircraft to Pine Bluff after some discussion with the crew, who seemed unsure where to go. ATC vectored the aircraft (still suffering control issues due to the issues with the left engine) for an approach to runway 17 at Pine Bluff. The control issues resulted in an overshoot of the final right turn (the aircraft was difficult to turn to the right due to the left engine issues) and finally touched down with only 1880 feet of runway remaining. The aircraft hydroplaned off the runway on the grass and finally came to a stop 687 feet past the end of the runway. None of the occupants was injured.

The incident aircraft at the Farnborough airshow in 1988© via Werner Fischdick

The National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the accident and in their report (Available by clicking here) they concluded that the probable cause was;

  • Failure to maintain professional cockpit discipline

  • Consequent inattention to aircraft instruments and ice-built up

  • Improper selection of Auto Flight vertical mode

These points led to an aerodynamic stall, loss of control and a forced landing, resulting in a runway overrun. Among others, the following contributing factors were also identified;

  • Poor crew discipline

  • Inappropriate actions to regain control

  • Fatigue

The aircraft was damaged beyond repair.

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