Courtesy the NTSB
IDAHO FALLS — The flight that ended with the deaths of nine members of an eastern Idaho family only lasted about 62 seconds, according to a preliminary report issued Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The report shows on that Nov. 30, the Pilatus PC-12 registered to Conrad & Bischoff Inc. crashed in Chamberlain, South Dakota, killing James Hansen, Jim Hansen, Kirk Hansen, Stockton Hansen, Logan Hansen, Kyle Naylor, Tyson Dennert, Jake Hansen and Houston Hansen. Three others, Josh Hansen, Matt Hansen, and Thomas Long, were seriously hurt.
The preliminary report outlines the details and facts collected during the on-scene investigation. This report doesn’t include an analysis or the probable cause of the crash. The NTSB says “no conclusions about the cause of the accident should be made based on the information contained in the preliminary report.”
Investigators expect to complete the final report within one to two years.
Events leading up to crash
On the day before the crash, the Hansen family landed in Chamberlain for their annual hunting trip. The pilot filled the aircraft with 150 gallons of fuel from an automated fuel station. (Authorities haven’t released the identity of the pilot, who was a family member.)
The plane was parked at the airport while the family stayed at the nearby lodge.
Hours before the plane took off, the pilot and a passenger arrived at the airport. A witness told investigators the pair cleared snow and ice from the aircraft for around three hours as the rest of the family arrived. The witness reported limited visibility with the snowy conditions.
Before takeoff, the pilot contacted Air Traffic Control at 12:24 p.m. to request a flight plan from Chamberlain to Idaho Falls. The pilot said he would be ready to depart in five minutes, and the controllers issued a clearance to fly.
Investigators at the crash site recovered a lightweight data recorder giving information about the flight. An LDR records flight information similar to that of a black box flight data recorder used on commercial aircraft.
On the recorder, the NTSB says, the plane began its take-off from runway 31 around 12:32 p.m. It lifted off the ground 30 seconds later and began turning to the left. As the plane climbed through 170 feet above the ground, the wings banked right and rolled over steeply to the left. The aircraft reached its peak altitude of 460 feet.
Airspeed stayed between 102 and 112 mph during the initial climb, but then as the plane banked over, speed slowed to 92 mph. Throughout the short flight, systems alerted the pilot the aircraft was stalling or losing sufficient lift to keep the airplane in the air. The data recorder stopped recording at 12:33 when the airplane crashed.
Another witness near the airport told investigators he heard the airplane “running good” for about four to five seconds before the sound stopped.
After the airplane made no contact with Air Traffic Control and did not appear on the radar by 12:40 p.m., the airport manager and the Brule County emergency dispatch center received a call notifying them of an overdue aircraft.
A property owner discovered the crash site around 2 p.m., about three-quarters of a mile west of the airport.
The debris left an approximately 85-foot-long path with the engine and left wing separated from the main portion of the wreckage consisting of the fuselage, tail and right wing. The NTSB said there was no fire or explosion in the crash.
The Automated Weather Observing System at the Chamberlian Airport recorded overcast skies with half-a-mile visibility at 12:35 p.m. The highest winds recorded around the time of the crash were 8 mph. Freezing rain and snow were observed near the airport the afternoon prior and overnight before the crash.
Experts plan to produce a transcript of the audio recorded in the cockpit by the LDR as investigators continue their analysis of the information.