NTSB Shows PC-12 Stalled Just After Takeoff

Aircraft was parked overnight in snow and freezing rain at the South Dakota airport.

NTSB investigator examining wreckage
An NTSB air safety investigator begins the initial examination of the wreckage of the Pilatus PC-12 that crashed on November 30, 2019, in Chamberlain, South Dakota.NTSB

While it is still too early to draw any final conclusions about what brought down the Pilatus PC-12 this past Thanksgiving weekend, the NTSB’s preliminary report published December 18 does highlight some disturbing facts about the single-engine turboprop’s short flight after it departed Chamberlin Municipal Airport, South Dakota (9V9). The accident killed the pilot and eight passengers while seriously injuring three others.

Chamberlin weather at the time of the accident reported a 500-foot overcast with one-half-mile visibility in moderate snow. The outside air temperature and dewpoint both indicated +1C. Freezing rain and snow were observed in the vicinity of the airport the previous afternoon and overnight before the accident flight. The airplane was not stored inside a hangar the night before the accident. Flying’s phone calls to the Chamberlin Airport to determine if a suitable hangar might have been available that night were not returned. The NTSB said witnesses reported the pilot and a passenger worked for three hours to remove the snow and ice from the airplane before the accident flight. The pilot contacted Minneapolis Center for his IFR clearance to the destination airport—Idaho Falls, Idaho—while still on the ground at Chamberlin. However, there was no radio or radar contact between the aircraft and ATC once the aircraft departed.

Preliminary data recovered from the Light Weight Data Recorder installed on the airplane showed the takeoff roll began about 12:31 p.m. local time on Runway 31. The Board says the airplane immediately rolled about 10 degrees to the left after liftoff. The roll decreased to about five degrees left as the airplane climbed through about 170 feet above ground level and then reversed to about five degrees right. The airplane ultimately entered a 64-degree left bank as the airplane reached a peak altitude of 460 feet agl. The Pilatus’ airspeed varied between 89 and 97 knots during the initial climb, but decayed to approximately 80 knots once the airplane reached 460 ft agl. The cockpit stall warning and stick shaker activated about one second after liftoff while the stick pusher activated 15 seconds after liftoff. Both devices continued intermittently for the duration of the two-minute flight before the data recording ended about 12:33 p.m.

The aircraft impacted a dormant corn field three quarters of a mile west of the airport. Witnesses reported visibility was limited by snow at the time of the accident and was the reason rescue teams did not arrive on scene until nearly 2 p.m. that same afternoon.

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