Wednesday, February 04, 2009

January ATR-42 Accident in Lubbock: NTSB Preliminary Report

ATR-42The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary report on the January 27, 2009 accident involving an ATR-42 aircraft at Lubbock, Texas. The accident happened as the aircraft, owned by FedEx and operated by Empire Airlines, was arriving at Lubbock's Preston Smith International Airport (LBB) from Fort Worth-Alliance Airport. The aircraft was destroyed, and the two pilots on board were injured.

The cargo aircraft (registration N902FX), operating as Empire Airlines flight 8284, landed short of the runway threshold while executing an Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach to runway 17R at LBB. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed.

Here is the sequence of events, according to the NTSB Preliminary Report:
A preliminary review of air traffic control communications revealed that the captain contacted the Lubbock Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) at 0422, and reported that they were descending from an altitude of 10,000 feet down to 8,000 feet mean sea level (msl). A controller acknowledged the transmission and then provided the airport's current weather information and a runway breaking-action advisory. In addition, he provided vectors for the ILS 17R approach.

At 0430, the controller instructed the airplane to descend and maintain an altitude of 5,000 feet msl. At 0432, the controller informed the flight crew that the wind had shifted 180 degrees from the north to the south between 5,000 and 6,000 feet msl. The captain responded and added that he also noted a drop in the outside air temperature of 8 degrees and concurred with the controller's observation regarding the wind shift. The controller cleared the airplane for the ILS approach at 0433 and instructed the flight crew to contact Lubbock Control Tower. The captain acknowledged.

At 0434, the captain contacted the control tower and a controller cleared the airplane to land on runway 17R. The captain acknowledged the landing clearance and there were no further communications. Approximately three minutes later an airport maintenance employee contacted the tower and asked "what is that fire there at the end of the runway?" A controller responded, "it's an airplane." The controller had witnessed the accident and had activated the alarm for the airport rescue and fire fighting equipment to respond.

An on-scene examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane landed short of the runway threshold and collided with the approach lighting system before it skidded off the right side of the runway into the grass. The airplane came to rest on a westerly heading perpendicular to the runway. A post-impact fire consumed a large portion of the fuselage and the right wing.

At 0415, the special weather report at LBB included wind from 350 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 2 miles, light freezing drizzle, mist, ceiling 500 feet overcast, temperature 46 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure setting of 30.02 inches of Mercury. [NTSB ID: CEN09MA142]
Earlier media reports said that the crew members had 'walked away' from the crash scene. Today's NTSB report noted, however, that both pilots were indeed injured. The captain's injuries were said to be serious, and the first officer sustained minor injuries. I wish them both a speedy and complete recovery.

[Photo Source]