A Look at December’s GA Accidents

The majority of these 2018 accidents occurred just after takeoff.

lake harney
Police searched for wreckage after a Beechcraft C90 King Air crashed into Florida's Lake Harney in December.New China TV/YouTube

Too often, GA accidents appear as just one more sentence or two in the media, often accompanied by a single ugly photo, a problem that dilutes the human cost of these tragedies as well as the efforts to improve pilot awareness of the risks of growing too comfortable in the cockpit of an aircraft. Here are some of the accidents that occurred in December.

On December 7, a Beechcraft BE58 Baron crashed at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (TISX), Christiansted, St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands. The Part 91-operated aircraft took off at 2100 local time in VMC conditions for a short flight north to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Not long after takeoff, the pilot reported to ATC that neither engine seemed to be running correctly and that he planned to return to the airport. The Baron was attempting to land on Runway 10 when it crashed approximately 380 feet short of the runway threshold. Reports indicate the landing gear was retracted at the time of impact. Five people perished in the accident.

Three people died in the crash of a Beechcraft C90 King Air on December 8 at 1115 local time when it impacted the waters of Lake Harney, near Geneva, Florida. The King Air, on a training flight, had departed Sanford Airport on an IFR flight plan just before 8 a.m. While being vectored for a practice ILS approach to Runway 27R, ATC issued a low altitude alert to the pilot who responded he was trying to climb to the 1,600-foot altitude requested when the aircraft disappeared from radar. A witness on a boat at the north end of Lake Harney reported seeing the aircraft beneath a 250-foot cloud deck briefly before it began a climb. A few moments later he observed to aircraft in a near vertical dive before it impacted the water.

Two people aboard a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza were fatally injured and two other received serious injuries on December 9, when the aircraft crashed near San Diego’s Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport (MYF) at 1633 local time. The aircraft had departed MYF a few minutes earlier. When 1.5 miles west of the airport at approximately 700 feet agl, the pilot reported a total loss of engine power. The pilot entered a steep right turn and set the aircraft up to land in a nearby field. After lowering the landing gear, the aircraft impacted and traveled through a fence before colliding with a nearby house when the aircraft erupted in flame.

A twin-engine Aerostar 601 carrying only the pilot crashed on December 10 shortly after takeoff from Miami Executive Airport (TMB). Weather was reported as VFR at the time of the accident, about 1450 local. The pilot self-fueled the airplane earlier in the day with 105 gallons of 100 LL before taxiing to a nearby flight school ramp where the pilot and two witnesses noticed fuel leaking from the bottom of the aircraft. A number of five-gallon buckets were brought to the airplane to capture the fuel although neither witness could confirm the number of buckets removed in total. Later that day, the pilot started the aircraft and initiated a takeoff on TMB’s Runway 31. The aircraft became airborne, but the pilot aborted the takeoff and stopped on the remaining surface before taxiing back for another attempt. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot declared an emergency and tried to return to the airport. A witness reported the aircraft turning back to the runway at between 400-800 feet agl, when the left wing dropped and the aircraft impacted terrain a mile east of the airport. The pilot’s injuries were fatal.

On Christmas Eve, five people died when a Cessna 340 crashed during takeoff at Florida’s Bartow Municipal Airport (BOW) southeast of Lakeland. At the time of the takeoff attempt, about 0720 local time, BOW weather reports showed calm winds with visibility ¼ mile in fog and a 300-foot ceiling. It is unclear whether the aircraft actually became airborne before leaving the runway. The wreckage remained within the airport boundaries.

The final accident for the month occurred in northwestern Costa Rica on New Year’s Eve when a Cessna Caravan carrying 10 Americans and two pilots on a local flight crashed just after noon local time. All aboard died in the accident. The charter aircraft operated by Nature Air had just departed Punta Islita headed to San Jose. A witness reported the aircraft in a left turn before it nose-dived straight into the ground. Weather at the time of the accident has not been reported.