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How To Break An Airplane

by John M. White |

On January 4th 2009 the crew of a Cessna Citation II made a non-stop flight from the Dominican Republic to Wilmington, NC which resulted in a very preventable accident. Fortunately for all 7 on board there were no fatalities, but a really nice Citation get banged up pretty good. How many times have you heard that accidents generally start with the attitude of the pilot(s) before they even leave the ground? No matter how hard the FAA tries, there is no way to hammer common sense into the heads of some pilots. But when you have 2 on board, you would think one of them might question what they were trying to do.
This Part 91 flight was crewed by an ATP rated Captain and a Commercial Pilot co-pilot. The flight departed the Dominican Republic at around 11:00pm EST and arrived at the Wilmington, NC Wilmington-New Hanover County Airport at around 2:00am in the morning. All Things Aviation Blog Upon arrival at the destination they discovered that the weather was:
  • Ceiling 100 feet broken;
  • Visibility 1/2 mile;
  • Temperature 11 degrees Celsius;
  • Dew Point 10 degrees Celsius;
  • Wind 020 at 3 knots.
After 3 missed approaches the crew advised the tower that the No. 1 engine had shut down and asked for vectors for a 4th approach. The pilot stated that they "were low on fuel" - surprise, surprise! While being vectored for the 4th approach the No. 2 engine shut down so the pilots asked for an immediate turn to the center of the airport which they had on their gps. They "aimed the airplane at the intersection of the runways" and at approximately 50 feet broke out of the clouds, saw a row of lights, landed gear up and went off the end of the runway. First question - why 4 approaches into that weather? Second question - where were their heads about fuel? Third question - were they planning for an alternate when they found out what the weather was at their destination? There is an old adage - "There is nothing as useless as airspace above you, runway behind you and fuel in the ground." I wonder if these two still have their licenses? What do you think? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 What is the cause of most aviation accidents: Usually it is because someone does too much too soon, followed very quickly by too little too late. — Steve Wilson, NTSB investigator, Oshkosh, WI , August, 1996.

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