NTSB Report Describes Recent Earnhardt Latitude Landing Accident

While all aboard escaped serious harm, the airplane was almost completely destroyed.

Textron Cessna Citation Latitude Jet
A Citation Latitude like this one bounced twice before sliding off the end of the runway at the Elizabethton airport.Textron Aviation

Remember the last time someone mentioned a bounced landing? Might not have been that long ago because we all bounce them in now and again. But somehow bouncing the landing in a Cessna 172 just doesn’t seem all that serious to most pilots, assuming of course the bounce didn’t begin by impacting the runway with the nosewheel. Regardless of the airplane’s size, bounced landings have plenty to teach any pilot, from how to identify a potential bounce before it occurs, to what techniques are most effective in preventing a disaster when the airplane finally decides to stay on the ground.

The size of the aircraft makes a difference in how much damage occurs during the bounce and the subsequent effort to stop the airplane. On August 15, a Cessna Citation Latitude experienced a runway excursion while attempting to land on Runway 24 at Elizabethton Municipal Airport (0A9) in Elizabethton, Tennessee. The excursion followed two bounces of the approximately 25,000-pound airplane according to a local airport video. Luckily the two pilots escaped unharmed while the three passengers experienced only minor injuries. However, the aircraft, operating as a Part 91 flight, was almost completely destroyed by a post-impact fire.

The NTSB will soon be asking plenty of questions of the two experienced, ATP-rated pilots in charge of the flight trying to determine if it was pilot technique or the failure of some on-board system that caused them to lose control of the airplane. At the time of the accident, Elizabethton reported calm wind, 10 miles visibility, scattered clouds at 4,700 and 5,500 ft and a broken deck at 7,000 ft.

The two pilots told the NTSB later that all appeared normal after leaving Statesville, North Carolina, as they climbed VFR to 12,500 feet preparing to land on Runway 24 at Elizabethton, where the runway is 4,529 feet in length. The crew did not ask for any ATC services for the brief flight. The NTSB’s preliminary report said the Latitude’s initial touchdown occurred near the runway touchdown zone. “The airplane [then] bounced twice and continued airborne down Runway 24 until it touched down a third time with about 1,000 ft of paved surface remaining. The video revealed the right main landing gear collapsed and the outboard section of the right wing contacted the runway shortly after the third touchdown.” That’s when the airplane left the runway beyond the departure threshold, sliding “through an open area of grass, down an embankment, through a chain-link fence, and up another embankment, before coming to rest on the edge of Tennessee Highway 91.”

The NTSB said, “The pilots' account of the landing was generally consistent with the video and that they also reported, following the second bounce, a go-around was attempted; however, the airplane did not respond as expected, so they landed straight-ahead on the runway and could not stop the airplane prior to the excursion. After the airplane came to a stop, the flight crew secured the engines and assisted the passengers with the evacuation. The main entry door was utilized to exit the airplane. A post-accident fire was in progress during the evacuation.”

If there can be good news emerging from this kind of accident, it’s the plethora of operational data that should be available to investigators because the cockpit “was equipped with a Garmin G5000 advanced integrated flight deck that recorded numerous flight and systems parameters,” as well as a cockpit voice recorder (CVR). The data was successfully downloaded following the accident, though the CVR was damaged by the post-accident fire. Data was sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders Laboratory, Washington, D.C., for further analysis. A final accident report could take at least another year to complete.