There are new questions surrounding the crash of a Turbo Commander last week, in which six perished when the airplane slammed into the side of a cliff in the Superstition Mountain range just east of Phoenix. The accident has prompted pilots to rethink their approach to flying at night near high terrain. Our suggestion was that TAWS of some form should be a part of every such flight — a six-plus passenger seat turbine-powered aircraft, the Commander that crashed was required to have TAWS installed, but as details of the crash emerge, investigators will be challenged to understand why the terrain alerting utility failed to protect the flight from harm.
In an article in the Arizona Republic earlier this week, NTSB investigator Michael Huhn said there are a number of questions that remain to be answered, including who was piloting the Commander and how the recently redesigned Class B airspace to the east of Phoenix might have contributed.
In an earlier interview, Huhn had said the Commander had been flying level at 4,500 feet up until near the point that it hit the ridge about a hundred feet below the ridgeline approximately five minutes into the flight. A webcam captured the impact and subsequent fireball, and some viewers believe the video shows the airplane slowing and/or pulling up in a vain attempt to clear the terrain. Of course, exactly what happened those last few moments is still under investigation, and many of the details will likely remain unknown.
Hilton Software, developer of the iPad app WingX Pro sent Flying a recreation of the accident flight, with the disclaimer the NTSB has not released a track or altitude information for the flight yet. Still, we feel the video shows what the pilot might have been seeing had he been monitoring the company’s app. Hilton Goldstein, company founder and CEO, pointed out the obvious, that the video is speculative in nature, and we felt it important to repeat that, as well.