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N128CM accident description

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Tail numberN128CM
Accident dateMarch 22, 2009
Aircraft typePilatus PC-12/45
LocationButte, MT
Near 45.95 N, -112.483333 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On March 22, 2009, at 1430 mountain daylight time, a Pilatus PC-12/45, N128CM, descended to ground impact near the approach end of runway 33 at the Bert Mooney Airport, Butte, Montana. The airplane was owned and operated by Eagle Capital Leasing, of Enterprise, Oregon, as a personal transportation flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The airplane was destroyed in the collision sequence and post crash fire. All 14 persons onboard the airplane were killed in the accident and there were no reported ground injuries. The flight departed Oroville, California, at 1210 Pacific daylight time on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan and clearance destined for Gallatin Field, Bozeman, Montana. The airplane was diverting to Butte at the time of the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at both the Bozeman and Butte airports.

The airplane impacted the Holy Cross cemetery west of runway 33 at Bert Mooney Airport, Butte, Montana. The wreckage was confined to the impact area and consumed by impact and fire. Portions of all major structural components were identified.

Interviews with family members indicated that seven adults and seven children were traveling to Bozeman, Montana, to meet other family members and friends for a ski vacation. The owner of the airplane drove from California with his wife and other family members. The airplane originally departed Redlands, California, flew to Nut Tree Airport, Vacaville, California, where passengers were picked up. The pilot then flew to Oroville, California, where additional passengers were picked up.

According to a preliminary briefing from the FAA regarding air traffic control, the pilot filed an instrument flight rules flight plan from Oroville, California (KOVE) to Bozeman, Montana (KBZN) with Butte, Montana (KBTM) as the alternate. The airplane departed at 1210 local. At 1359 the crew contacted the Salt Lake City Center. At 1403, the airplane was at FL 250 and the pilot requested to change his destination to Butte and gave no reason for the diversion. He was cleared at pilot's discretion to descend to 14,000 feet, and at 1405 the pilot again requested to divert to Butte. At 1427 air traffic control asked the pilot if he had the airport in sight and the pilot indicated he had one more cloud to maneuver around. At 1428 the pilot reported the airport in sight and air traffic control terminated radar service. At 1429, air traffic control called the aircraft in the blind with no response. The accident was reported to local authorities at 1433.

Initial reports from ground witnesses indicate that the airplane was flying approximately 300 feet above ground level in a north-northwesterly direction. Shortly thereafter, the airplane's nose pitched to a nose-low attitude and it impacted the ground. One witness with aviation experience reported that the airplane was west of the runway centerline and appeared too high to land on the runway. The witness then saw the airplane bank to the left and fly farther west when it rolled, pitched down, and descended out of his view. Although there is no air traffic control tower at Butte, the local fixed base operator lineman was monitoring the radio as the airplane approached the airport. He heard the pilot transmit that he would be landing on runway 33.

Butte was reporting the following weather conditions at the time of the accident: at 1353 local, winds were from 320 degrees at 10 knots, visibility was 10 statute miles, clouds were 4,400 few, 8,000 overcast, temperature was 7 degrees C, dew point was -3 degrees C, altimeter was 29.57 inches of Mercury. At 1453 local, winds were from 300 degrees at 8 knots, visibility was 10 statute miles, clouds were broken at 6,500, temperature was 7 degrees C, dew point was -3 degrees C, altimeter was 29.56 inches of Mercury.

Bozeman was reporting the following weather conditions at 1356, approximately 3 minutes before the pilot requested to divert to Butte: the winds were from 290 degrees at 7 knots (240 variable to 320), visibility 10 statute miles, clear skies, temperature 14 degrees C, dew point -1 degree C, altimeter was 29.94 inches of Mercury.

All times reference mountain daylight time (mdt).

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