March 06, 2007
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the probable cause(s) of the military jet surplus warbird in Ketchikan on January 25, 2006 as the pilot's failure to follow published instrument landing procedures and his descent below approach minimums during an IFR circle to land approach, which resulted in the airplane striking the ocean and a loss of engine power. Factors contributing to the accident were low clouds and snow.
Photo By Marie L. Monyak
The NTSB findings noted that during the circle-to-land contact approach, pilot Stephen Freeman was advised by an FAA flight service station specialist at Ketchikan International Airport that the weather did not look favorable for a contact approach due to low clouds and visibility.
A pilot-rated witness on the shore across from the island reported seeing the airplane descend from the clouds and strike the ocean three times before it climbed out of sight reported the NTSB. The witness described the visibility as about 3/4 mile in blowing snow. The airplane continued to fly for approximately 2.3 miles, until other witnesses near a town on the shore heard the engine stop, and saw the jet and a parachute at a low altitude.
NTSB's probable cause report continued stating that the airplane collided with the ground in a large lot, and continued into an occupied trailer home and parked vehicles. A postcrash fire ensued.
Inspection of the airplane disclosed no preimpact mechanical problems with the airplane according the the NTSB probable findings report. The loss of engine power was consistent with the water impact which damaged the inlet fan and compressor stator.
The circle-to-land minimum descent altitude for aircraft with a 120 knot approach speed is 2,500 feet msl, and requires 3 miles visibility. Prior to impact, the pilot attempted to eject from the airplane at a low altitude. The ejection was unsuccessful, and the pilot struck a tree while still in the ejection seat. Inspection of the ejection apparatus disclosed no evidence of any preimpact malfunction noted the probable findings report.
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