Equipment to warn pilot about stalling was active 2 minutes before fatal flight in South Dakota, board says

Equipment to warn pilot about stalling was active 2 minutes before fatal flight in South Dakota, board says

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APTOPIX Plane Crash South Dakota

In this Monday, Dec. 2 photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an NTSB air safety investigator begins the initial examination of the wreckage of the Pilatus PC-12 that crashed in Chamberlain, S.D., on Nov. 30, shortly after departure from Chamberlain Municipal Airport. 

WASHINGTON — The National Transportation and Safety Board issued a preliminary report Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 17, on the circumstances surrounding the Nov. 30 plane crash that killed nine and injured three in Chamberlain, South Dakota.

The crash's cause has not been established, but the report states equipment on the plane used to warn the pilot about stalling was active during the two minutes the plane was airborne.

The Pilatus PC12 registered as being owned by Conrad and Bischoff, a petroleum products company based in Idaho, took off from runway 31 at the Chamberlain Municipal Airport at 12:31 p.m. and was headed for the Idaho Falls Regional Airport in Idaho. Data recording stopped at 12:33 p.m., and the wreckage was located by the owner of the property where it landed at 1:57 p.m. in a dormant cornfield about three-quarters of a mile from the Chamberlain airport. The crash left an 85-foot-long path of debris.

According to the report, preliminary data recovered from the plane's data recorder indicated the plane rolled about 10 degrees to the left immediately after takeoff. As the plane climbed to 170 feet above ground level, the roll decreased to 5 degrees to the left, then reversed to 5 degrees to the right. The plane ultimately banked 64 degrees to the right as it reached its peak altitude of 460 feet.

Two mechanisms in the cockpit used to alert the pilot of stalling and another used to prevent aerodynamic stalling became active seconds into the flight and continued intermittently throughout.

The group flew from Idaho Falls to Chamberlain on the morning of Nov. 29, and the pilot reportedly purchased 150 gallons of fuel from the pump at the Chamberlain airport shortly after landing. The plane was parked outside on a ramp, and the group stayed in a local lodge overnight.

Freezing rain and snow fell in the area the afternoon and night before the flight. On the morning of Nov. 30, the pilot and one of the passengers were driven to the airport, and witnesses reported that they saw them spend three hours removing snow and ice from the plane prior to takeoff.

At the time of the flight and crash, skies were overcast with moderate snow and a half-mile of visibility.

At 12:24 p.m., the pilot requested an instrument flight rules clearance, which was issued by the Minneapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center. A witness reported hearing the plane take off from about half a mile northwest of the airport and said he heard the engine "running good" for four to five seconds before the sound stopped.

After not having received radio communication with the pilot by 12:40 p.m., Minneapolis ARTCC contacted the airport manager in Chamberlain, who said the flight had left about 10 minutes earlier.

Minneapolis ARTCC then contacted the Brule County emergency dispatch center, and an alert notice was issued.

The engine and left wing were found in the debris path, separated from the rest of the plane. Those and the tail of the plane are reported to make up the main wreckage. The report indicates there was no fire or explosion when the plane crashed.

Though radio contact was never established with the pilot, the flight recorder captured cockpit sound, which the NTSB intends to have transcribed by a group of technical experts.

A statement from the family has identified that brothers Jim Hansen Jr. and Kirk Hansen, 48, died in the crash. Together, they were leaders of Kyani, a health and wellness supplement company. Others killed in the crash included their father, James, 81, Kyle Naylor, 29, Tyson Dennert, 26, Stockton Hansen, 22, Logan Hansen, 12, Jake Hansen, and Houston Hansen were among those killed in the crash. All, including the three people who were injured, are related.

Investigation was done by NTSB's Timothy Sorensen with assistance from Eric West of the Federal Aviation Administration; Martin Pohl, a member of the Swiss Transportation Safety Board; and Markus Kohler and Bob Renshaw, representatives from Pilatus Aircraft.

Further analysis of the crash and probable cause will be given in a final NTSB report, which is expected to take one to two years.

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