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N277PM accident description

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Tail numberN277PM
Accident dateDecember 17, 2002
Aircraft typeCessna 208B
LocationRockford, IL
Near 42.168611 N, -89.151389 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On December 17, 2002, at 2251 central standard time, a Cessna 208B, N277PM, operated by Planemasters LTD as flight 1627 (PMS1627), collided with the trees and terrain while on the Instrument Landing System (ILS) Runway 7 approach to the Greater Rockford Airport (RFD), Rockford, Illinois. The pilot received fatal injuries and the airplane was destroyed. The 14 CFR Part 135 non scheduled domestic cargo flight was transporting cargo for United Parcel Service (UPS) at the time of the accident. The flight was operating in instrument meteorological conditions on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The flight departed Decatur, Illinois, at 2154.

A Trip Log that was provided by Planemasters shows the pilot departed the DuPage Airport (DPA), West Chicago, Illinois, at 1835, on December 16, 2002, en route to the Decatur Airport (DEC), Decatur, Illinois, where he landed at 1935. He then departed DEC at 2150 en route to RFD, where he landed at 2245. The trip continued with a departure from RFD at 0355 on December 17, 2002, en route to the Williamson County Regional Airport (MWA), Marion, Illinois, where he landed at 0550. The pilot then departed MWA at 0705 en route to DEC, arriving at 0750. The pilot then took off from DEC at 2154.

At 2230:47, PMS1627 contacted RFD approach control and reported being at 6,000 feet with information Zulu. The approach controller issued the ILS Runway 7 approach to PMS1627.

At 2233:42, PMS1627 was issued a 10 degree heading change for vectors to base. The pilot acknowledged this transmission.

At 2236:48, the approach controller instructed PMS1627 to fly a heading of 310 degrees and to descend to and maintain 3,000 feet. The pilot acknowledged this transmission.

At 2243:15, the approach controller instructed PMS1627 to turn left to a heading of 290 degrees. The pilot acknowledged this transmission.

At 2243:59, the approach controller asked PMS1627 if he could operate at 170 knots. The pilot responded, "ah be pushing it sir." The controller then asked if he could maintain 150 knots. The pilot responded affirmatively.

At 2244:37, the approach controller issued a heading of 320 degrees and a caution for wake turbulence. The pilot acknowledged this transmission.

At 2245:42, PMS1627 was instructed to turn to a heading of 120 degrees to intercept the localizer. The pilot acknowledged this transmission.

At 2248:48, the approach controller instructed the pilot to turn back left to a heading of 120 degrees to join the localizer. The pilot acknowledged the transmission.

At 2249:30, PMS1627 was cleared for the ILS Runway 7 approach.

At 2249:42, PMS1627 was instructed to contact the tower.

At 2250:58, PMS1627 contacted the tower. The local controller issued the winds as 140 degrees at 18 knots and PMS1627 was cleared to land. The pilot acknowledged this transmission. This was the last contact with PMS1627.

At 2252:09, the local controller issued the winds as 110 degrees at 15 knots.

At 2252:47, the local controller instructed PMS1627 to report being on the runway.

Between 2253:03 and 2254:28, the local controller made four attempts to contact PMS1627. At 2256:22, the local controller asked UPS487 if they would look for a Cessna 208 when they were taxiing in. At 2301:40, UPS487 reported to local controller that their operations stated a Planemaster had landed just prior to them and that it was over at the remote ramp by the terminal.

At 2257, the Winnebago County Sheriff's Police received a report of the airplane crash. Officers met with the caller who directed them to the area where he heard the noise. The officers began searching the area. They stated they were able to smell a strong odor of fuel in the area. The Sergeant in charge of the investigation reported that at 2303, a 911 dispatcher contacted the RFD control tower regarding the call they received reporting an accident. The tower personnel advised the dispatcher that they were missing an airplane. At 2309, the tower advised the dispatcher, that they had located the airplane on the airport. The Sheriff's Police continued to search the area. The Sergeant stated that at 0045 the tower contacted the Sheriff's Police and stated that they were in fact missing a Cessna 208. The Sheriff's Police located the wreckage at 0053. (See ATC Group Chairman's Factual Report for additional details.)

The witness who called the Sheriff's Police stated during an interview that he lives approximately 2 miles west of the airport and one-half mile north of the accident site. He stated he has lived there for 14 years, so he is accustomed to the sound of airplanes. He stated he heard the airplane fly over at a "mid-throttle" power setting. He then heard a sound for about 3 seconds that he likened to an airplane "falling" with the same engine sounds as before. He then heard the engine sound increase "when the pilot throttled it." Based on the sound, he estimated the airplane was about 70 feet above the ground. He heard the increase in engine noise for about 4 to 5 seconds followed by the sound of the airplane hitting, then silence. He stated the sounds were south of his location. The witness stated there was no precipitation at the time of the accident and there were "severe winds, mostly from the south, shifting volatile directly from the east." He also stated the visibility was "extremely poor."


The pilot received a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating on September 30, 1994. On November 20, 1996, the pilot failed the flight portion of an instrument airplane check ride. The pilot took the test again, passed, and was issued an instrument airplane rating on December 21, 1996. On June 7, 1999, the pilot failed the flight portion of his commercial pilot check ride. He retested and passed on July 31, 1999. On April 13, 2001, the pilot was issued a multi-engine rating on his commercial pilot certificate.

On February 15, 2002, the pilot was issued a Federal Aviation Administration second class medical certificate. The medical certificate contained a limitation for corrective lenses.

The pilot had been employed at Planemasters LTD since March 2002. The aircraft operator provided a Pilot Profile, which was last updated on November 19, 2002. The profile indicates the pilot had a total flight time of 1,841 hours, of which 1,686 hours were pilot-in-command. The profile also indicated the pilot had 1,497 hours of Cessna 208 flight time, 257 hours of actual instrument time, and 1,065 hours of night flight time.

A computer-generated logbook was provided by Planemasters LTD, which showed the pilot flew 19.8 hours between November 19, 2002 and November 26, 2002. The log indicated 16.9 of these hours were in a Cessna 208, 2.4 hours were instrument flight time, and 13.8 hours were at night.

A Pilot Duty Record provided by Planemasters LTD showed the pilot flew 11.3 hours between December 9, 2002 and the date of the accident.

The Pilot Ground Training Log provided by Planemasters LTD indicates the pilot received recurrent training on August 21, 2002. The type aircraft is listed as a Cessna 208 and the remarks state "135 PIC Oral." The remarks section on a Pilot Flight Training Log for this same date states "135 PIC Checkride."


The aircraft was a single engine Cessna 208B, s/n 208B0143. In February 2001, the aircraft registration number was changed from N9648B to the current number of N277PM. The Hobbs meter in the airplane indicated a time of 5,320.2 hours. The airplane was maintained in accordance with an Approved Aircraft Inspection Program (AAIP). Records show the last maintenance performed on the airplane was on November 21, 2002, when the Bendix/King radar was repaired. On this date the aircraft total time was listed as 10,119.6 hours.

The engine was a Pratt & Whitney PT6-A-114, s/n PCE 17294. The Aircraft Flight Log completed by the pilot showed the engine power section had a total time of 9,950.8 hours prior to the flight from RFD to MWA, on December 16, 2002. The engine was maintained in accordance with an AAIP. The maintenance records show the last maintenance performed on the engine was on November 5, 2002. These records indicate that at that time the engine had 10,000 hours of total time and 1,200 hours of time since major overhaul. The engine was overhauled in October 1995, at a total time since new of 4,398.8 hours. The engine was overhauled again in October 2000, at a total time of 8,800 hours.

Planemasters reported N277PM was fueled with 1,200 pounds of Jet A aviation fuel prior to its departure from DPA on December 16, 2002. The Trip Log shows the airplane received 40 gallons of fuel at RFD and 60 gallons of fuel at MWA. A fuel log provided by Decatur Aviation shows that N277PM took on 110 gallons of fuel prior to the accident flight. According to Decatur Aviation, the fuel added to N277PM was Jet A aviation fuel and that the 110 gallons did not completely fill the fuel tanks.

The load manifest for the flight showed the airplane was carrying 3 bags and 156 loose packages during the flight. The scale weight for this cargo was listed as 1,942 pounds.


A weather observation station, located at RFK, recorded the weather as:

Observation Time: 2254 cst Wind: 110 degrees at 17 knots, gusting to 20 knots Visibility: 1.25 statute miles Precipitation: Light rain and mist Sky Condition: 300 Overcast Temperature: 2 degrees Celsius Dew Point: -1 degree Celsius Pressure: 29.73 inches of Mercury

The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart for 0600Z (0000) depicted a stationary front extending northeast from eastern Kansas into northwestern Missouri. This stationary front turned into a warm front across the Iowa and Missouri border, across central Illinois, Indiana, and southern Ohio, into Kentucky.

The NWS 850-mb Constant Pressure Chart for 0000Z (1800) depicted a band of southerly low-level winds of 40 knots in the vicinity of the accident site. The station models near the accident site indicated winds from the south at 30 to 40 knots, which resulted in an approximate 90 degree shift from the surface winds north of the warm front.

The NWS Weather Depiction Chart for 0400Z (2200) showed a large area of IFR conditions, which covered several states including Illinois. The station models over northern Illinois indicated ceilings ranging from 100 to 500 feet above ground level (agl) and visibilities ranging from 1 to 4 statue miles with continuous light rain and fog/mist.

The NWS Radar Summary Chart for 0515Z (2315) showed an area of very strong (VIP 3 to 4) echoes of thunderstorm and rain showers, with several embedded areas of intense to extreme intensity (VIP 5 to 6) echoes in the vicinity of the accident site.

The upper air sounding for the area at 0000 (1800) indicated a freezing level was approximately 885 feet with temperatures below freezing to 2,100 feet where a frontal inversion was identified to 2,700 feet. A second freezing level was present at 9,400 feet. The sounding depicted favorable conditions for elevated convection, with a defined frontal inversion, strong warm air advection at low levels, strong wind shear, and a relatively stable atmosphere based on the standard stability indices.

AIRMET Sierra, which encompassed RFD, was issued at 0254Z (2054) and was valid until 0900Z (0300 on December 18, 2002). This AIRMET warned of occasional ceilings below 1,000 feet agl and visibilities below 3 miles in precipitation and mist.

AIRMET Tango, which encompassed RFD, was issued at 0253Z (2053) and was valid until 0900Z (0300 on December 18, 2002). This AIRMET warned of occasional moderate turbulence below 18,000 feet.

AIRMET Zulu, which encompassed RFD, was issued at 0253Z (2053) and was valid until 0900Z (0300 on December 18, 2002). The AIRMET was for occasional moderate rime to mixed icing-in-clouds and in-precipitation above the freezing level to 18,000 feet. The freezing level was identified at the surface over the northern portions of the area, from 4,000 to 8,000 feet over the central portions, and from 8,000 to 10,000 feet over the southern portion of the forecast area. RFD is in the central portion of the coverage area.

The Terminal Aerodrome Forecast for RFD issue at 0305Z (2105) expected winds from 110 degrees at 15 knots gusting to 20 knots, visibility 4 miles in mist, ceiling overcast at 800 feet agl. A temporary condition was forecast for the period between 0300Z (2100) and 0500Z (2300). This forecast was for visibility 2 miles in light rain showers and mist, ceiling overcast at 500 feet agl.

The pilot received a weather briefing from the St. Louis Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) between 0207Z (2007) and 0218Z (2018). The pilot filed an IFR flight plan for 8,000 feet with an en route time of 1 hour. The pilot received a synopsis of current conditions, current in-flight advisories, observations, route forecast, winds aloft, terminal aerodrome forecast for RFD, and current Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) for the departure and destination airports. The pilot filed DEC as his alternate landing airport.

The AFSS briefer advised the pilot of AIRMETs for occasional moderate turbulence below 18,000 feet, light to moderate rime to mixed icing from the freezing level at 9,000 feet to 18,000 feet, and for extensive IFR conditions due to low ceilings and restricted visibilities. The briefer also advised the pilot of a Convective SIGMET that was current for an area of thunderstorms over central and eastern Missouri, moving to the northeast. (See NTSB Meteorology Factual Report for additional details.)

The assistant chief pilot for UPS Flight Operations at RFD reported that he asked other flight crews who landed around the time of the accident if they had encountered any icing conditions during their approach. They all replied that they did not encounter icing conditions.

The pilot of UPS0487, a McDonnell Douglas DC8, reported they flew the ILS Runway 7 approach in front of PMS1627. He stated that because of their intercept angle and the 45-knot right to left direct crosswind, they overshot the final approach course. He stated, "After numerous overshoots by the autopilot trying to capture the course, we went around." He stated they were vectored back around behind the "Planemaster" flight. He stated they heard a previous report of windshear, and they experienced a 10 to 15 knot airspeed fluctuation while on final approach between 1,000 feet and 500 feet agl.

The pilot of UPS0555, a Boeing 767, that landed at RFD at 0505Z (2305) reported they experienced a "strong" crosswind while on the glideslope. He stated the wind was around 40 knots and about 20 knots at touchdown. This pilot stated that between 1,200 agl to 500 agl, they experienced airspeed fluctuations of +1 knot to -7 knots off of their target approach speed. He reported that they broke out of the clouds around 300 feet agl and the visibility was less then one mile.

Another pilot flying a SD3-Shorts 330 that landed at 0515Z (2315) reported conditions over the outer marker were windy and turbulent with airspeed fluctuations of +/- 10 knots. He stated they saw the approach lights right at decision height and after descending an additional 100 feet, they saw the runway lights.

The pilot of UPS0061, a McDonnell Douglas DC8, that landed at 0512Z (2312) reported they experienced airspeed fluctuations of +/- 10 knots between 1,400 feet and 1,200 feet agl after they passed the outer marker.

The pilot of UPS0077, a McDonnell Douglas DC8, that landed at 0440Z (2240) reported experiencing a 33-knot crosswind while on the approach. This pilot also reported a low ceiling and turbulence.

The pilot of UPS0439, a McDonnell Douglas DC8, that landed at 0515Z (2315) stated they encountered rain showers during the approach and a 50-knot crosswind at 3,000 feet, which decreased to about 15 knots at touchdown. This pilot reported the gusty conditions lasted until they landed with +/- 10-knot airspeed fluctuations. He also reported the approach lights were visible at 300 agl feet, and th

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.