Aircraft Accident Investigation
Develop a “partial” accident investigation report based upon the accident information provided on the ‘Zonk Air Accident’ scenario.
1.0 Brief history of flight (Mission)
1.1 On-Scene actions (Scene Management Procedures)
1.2 On-Scene observations (What did you note and observe?)
1.3 Airport information and weather (Basic description and source)
1.4 Flight information and mission (Who, what, where and why)
1.5 Aircraft information (Type, history, performance, maintenance, etc.)
1.6 Pilot information (certificates, hours, training, etc.)
1.7 Company information and operations (Who, what where why)
1.8 Miscellaneous information (Option for additional information)
1.9 Final analysis (Your analysis for causes - prove and bring it all together here)
2.0 Conclusion (The probable and contributing causes)
2.1 Recommendations (Realistic, doable suggestions)
This report describes a fatal accident of Zonk Air N517RL, 1980 PA-31-310 aircraft. It was approximately five miles from Lake Tahoe Airport. A pilot and four passengers are among the individuals who died during the incident. Poor weather conditions, lack of proper documentation, and a lack of maintenance are some of the issues that might have caused the accident. The final section has provided some recommendations for Zonk Air Company to minimize such cases.
Table of Contents
On 7th November 2010, a pilot and four passengers were involved in a fatal accident after the crash of an aircraft number N517RL. It was approximately five miles from Lake Tahoe Airport, runway 18. After departing from the airport, the aircraft entered the lower clouds, but it was later seen coming down from the overcast with trolling smoke after some few minutes. The aircraft first contacted the top of a one-hundred-foot communications tower. A red tip light was then discovered four hundred feet from the base of the tower, and it had impacted the ground. A green tip light was also discovered one hundred feet from the red ground scar. Finally, the aircraft rested fifty feet from the green tip light impact scar (Bair & Smith, 2018). The tower's impact forces destroyed the aircraft, and the post0-crash fire destroyed the ground.
The on-scene action by the investigative organization followed guidelines and procedures provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. The guidelines included taking photographs of the crash site, collecting evidence, initial coordination, witness interviews, and readying the equipment. The emergency team recovered the bodies and were taken to the county coroner, who investigated the cause of death for all of them. The investigation team also requested a flight path plan from the United States Geological Survey (Bair & Smith, 2018). The emergency team also investigated to find out the source of the fire.
The communication tower was impacted at the top at one hundred feet. Another impact was observed four hundred feet from the base of a communication tower. The aircraft twisted, crushed, and partially burned. The evidence of fire was soot marks on the wing roots and fuselage. The left engine had a propagation cracking, and the right engine had droplets of meatal and soot marks, which is evidence of a crash fire. Passengers and the cockpit area, including all the instruments that had been completely damaged by fire and impact forces. The seats had been twisted and broken, and the rescue team was forced to cut the restraints when removing the dead bodies (Bair & Smith, 2018). The cargo trunks had also scattered after breaking because restraint cables did not support them.
The Lake Tahoe Airport has been certified by the Federal Investigation Administration since 1973 and was last inspected on 27th August 2010. South Lake Tahoe, CA, is the owner and the manager of the airport. The airport mostly deals with unscheduled aircrafts that carry thirty passengers or more. The Lake Tahoe Airport is categorized under Class E (Bair & Smith, 2018). Regarding weather information, the density attitude was favorable for the aircraft takeoff during that day
The aircraft had been scheduled to travel 292.1 miles to Burbank, CA, or 20 miles from Tahoe Airport, and return. The aircraft had carried four passengers, the pilot, and four trunks of camera equipment (Bair & Smith, 2018). Another flight information is that the visual meteorological conditions were applied, and it was confirmed that the aircraft had followed the Visual Flight Rules.
The 1980 PA-31-310 operator's manual indicated that the aircraft had a gross weight of six hundred and five hundred pounds, and the weight during takeoff was six thousand, seven hundred and eighty. Therefore, the maximum recommended weight had exceeded two hundred and eighty pounds. The aircraft had two engines with charged turbo. Also, there were remaining ninety-eight hours from the next expected plane inspection. The Drug Enforcement Administration had also reported a case of a drug trafficker ten years ago before the incident (Bair & Smith, 2018). The aircraft has also been sold severally to other operators. Other plane information was obtained from the maintenance team, who reported that the pilot had reported that the plane had fuel droplets in the right engine and power loss ten days before the incident.
The pilot had been hired to work with Zonk Air one year before the accident. He had traveled for fifty hours in a twin-engine aircraft. The pilot had also undergone the three-day VFR flights, one of the Zonk Air training requirements. He had also been a pilot in one of the solar panel companies in Arizona. Another pilot's information was obtained from an interview where one reported that the pilot had some relationship issues and was seen sleeping in a lounge before the flight (Bair & Smith, 2018). Another pilot stated that the pilot seemed tired most of the time, but he had a good relationship with his workmates.
The FAA had certified Zonk Air Charters for Part 91 and 135 operations. All the maintenance personnel were contracted from other companies since the company does not have a maintenance team. The owner of the flight company is also certified by the FAA under part 135. Zonk Air also had the plan of selling the company, but the investigators confirmed that the company had unpaid bills for inspections and fuel bills. In addition, Zonk Air had already filed bankruptcy protections in Chapter 11. Flight proficiency and training are some of the operations that the owner carried out (Bair & Smith, 2018). There was also some formal procedure that was followed when dispatching flight systems.
The witness explained that the aircraft had one thousand pounds of fuel. The pilot said that he only had a forty-five-minute flight, but he requested more gas because he was unsure whether the passengers would need the flight services back to their home, Burbank (Bair & Smith, 2018). The attendant also confirmed that he seemed anxious before departure because of the weather condition. Other witnesses confirmed that the plane was smoking before the crash.
According to the witnesses, the aircraft's right engine experienced fire immediately after taking off. This could have been caused by poor maintenance and a lack of following some rules and regulations. For instance, the pilot had reported some mechanical problem ten days before the incident, but no action had been taken (Bair & Smith, 2018). The pilot also failed to accept the IFR provided by the controller and ended up using the VFR.
The accident occurred when the right engine failed to operate because of a propagation cracking. The witnesses also said the fire started from the right engine immediately after the craft took off. Poor weather conditions could also be another cause of the accident (Bair & Smith, 2018). The lack of cargo strips could also have increased the risk of injuring the passengers after the crash, leaving no room for survival.
The first recommendation is that Zonk Air should improve its record-keeping system for pilot training, maintenance, and finances. Therefore, the owner will minimize the risks of losing the company and also minimize accidents. Another recommendation is that the FAA retrain and inspect the company's owner to ensure all rules and regulations are followed. Lastly, pilots should always provide current records during check rides to ensure they are well prepared.
Bair S. & Smith D. (2018). SFTY 300- Aircraft Accident Investigation. Zonk Air Accident
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