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N85DW accident description

Michigan map... Michigan list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Ironwood, MI
46.454670°N, 90.171008°W
Tail number N85DW
Accident date 14 Aug 2000
Aircraft type North American NA-265-80
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On August 14, 2000, at 1822 central daylight time (all times CDT unless noted), a North American NA-265-80, Sabreliner, N85DW, was destroyed during a forced landing when it crashed in a densely wooded area about 3.0 nautical miles (nm) northeast of the Gogebic Iron-County Airport (IWD), Ironwood, Michigan. The 14 CFR Part 91 business flight had departed the Brainerd-Crow Wing County Regional Airport (BRD) at 1747 en route to the Flint/Bishop International Airport (FNT), Flint, Michigan, on an IFR flight plan. The airplane's altitude was approximately 31,800 feet mean sea level (msl) and about 7 nm north of Ashland, Wisconsin, when the airline transport pilot radioed a "MAYDAY" distress call. The pilot reported the airplane had lost power on both engines, and that the airplane had been struck by lightning. The airplane was vectored towards IWD. The airplane was approximately 17,500 feet msl and 12 nm west of IWD when the pilot reported the airplane lost its navigation capability. The airplane continued its descent toward IWD. The airplane impacted the terrain on an approximate heading of 210 degrees. The pilot and copilot received fatal injuries and the two passengers were seriously injured.

The two pilots and passengers had flown in N85DW from FNT to BRD in the morning. The passengers rented a car and conducted their business meetings. The pilots remained at the airport and prepared the airplane for the return flight to FNT. The airplane was refueled with 691 gallons of fuel. The pilot indicated on the flight plan that N85DW had 4:45 hours of fuel on board when it departed BRD.

At 1315:58, the pilot of N85DW called the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Princeton, Minnesota, Automated Flight Service Station (FSS) and spoke to a preflight briefing specialist. The pilot asked if the briefer had information on a severe weather warning that he had seen on television. The briefer replied, "... yes, it's number six eighty five, I was wondering when they would issue that, considering there's been severe thunderstorms up there all day."

The pilot asked if hail was in the forecast. The briefer replied, "... we've had indications of hail...all day." He added that there were, "... two cells, three cells, producing hail, one is just north of Brainerd." The pilot told the briefer he was not familiar with the area, and the briefer confirmed that the pilot was at Brainerd. The briefer described the area of cells as, "... north of you... moving east." The pilot said he would be departing at "six or seven o'clock tonight." The briefer said that thunderstorms were forecast for the Brainerd area, with the strongest activity expected "... right around the dinner hour...six o'clock or so," and added that "... they do look for redevelopment...along a line from about seventy five southwest of your present position up through the Duluth area." The pilot asked, "... what about the hail?" The briefer said, "... a severe weather watch looks for severe thunderstorms which include hail." The briefer stated that there was no cell currently affecting Brainerd, "... but I dunno what's gonna develop [by] the time you leave...there's a good chance there'll be hail in it."

At 1627:01, the pilot called the FSS again in order to file a flight plan under instrument flight rules (IFR) from BRD to FNT. The pilot filed the flight plan with the FSS Flight Data Specialist. The proposed departure time was 1800, planned altitude was FL330, and the requested route of flight was BRD direct FNT. The pilot then asked for "current and forecast at Flint."

The Flight Data Specialist read the FNT 2053 UTC observation and the FNT Terminal Forecast valid between August 14 at 1800 UTC and August 15 at 1800 UTC. The Flight Data Specialist then asked if the pilot if he needed the convective sigmet for northern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin for severe thunderstorms. The pilot replied that he did, and the Flight Data Specialist read Convective SIGMET 56C and Severe Weather Statement WW 685.

The pilot asked the Flight Data Specialist, "... how far south would I have to go to get around it?" The Flight Data Specialist asked, "This activity?" The pilot asked, "If you're saying twenty south of Brainerd?" The Flight Data Specialist said, "the convective sigmet is ... thirty northeast of Brainerd." The pilot asked, "if I went south around twenty or thirty miles, I'll get around it, no?" The Flight Data Specialist replied, "Brainerd to Duluth is where about the southernmost boundary of ... the activity."

The pilot asked the Flight Data Specialist if anyone got hail. He replied that the hail activity was "north of Brainerd" and described that the "heavier activity" was all north of Solon Springs, Wisconsin.

The pilot stated, "So if I'm going south...east I might just skirt the edge of this whole thing." The Flight Data Specialist replied, "if you go to the can avoid practically all this stuff... anywhere east of Brainerd is where you're going to get clobbered, to about Cloquet." The pilot said, "You say east, if I go due east?" The Flight Data Specialist replied, "... you'll get clobbered if you go due east."

The passengers returned to the airport at about 1740 for the return flight to Flint. One of the passengers reported that as they were getting in their seats prior to takeoff, the pilot stopped and told him that it would be bumpy for the first 15 to 20 minutes of the flight.

At 1745:57, the pilot called the FAA Air Traffic Control (ATC) and requested an IFR clearance to FNT and said, "...runway five, ready in less than a minute." ATC cleared N85DW, "... as filed, climb and maintain six thousand, squawk six three seven three, report airborne this frequency." The pilot acknowledged the clearance.

At 1748:18 the pilot reported being airborne to ATC.

At 1749:15, ATC advised N85DW, "... radar contact four miles east of the Brainerd Airport, verify leaving three thousand." The pilot replied in the affirmative and ATC instructed him to climb to 8,000 and contact Minneapolis Center (ZMP) on frequency 121.05.

At 1749:53, the pilot reported on the ZMP sector 10 (R10) frequency, 121.05, and the controller instructed him to climb to Flight Level (FL) 230. Radar returns from ZMP indicated that the aircraft was tracking 110 degrees magnetic. A direct course from BRD to FNT was 108 degrees at 490 nautical miles.

At 1753:00 the pilot requested, "... we'd like a left turn to zero nine zero for weather." R10 replied, "... approved as requested."

At 1753:49, the pilot requested a further left turn to a heading of 080 for weather, which R10 approved. Radar data indicated the aircraft was tracking 085 degrees. At 1754:30, the radar track indicated 113 degrees, and at 1756:30, the track indicated a course of 070.

At 1757:00, the pilot asked R10, "... are you painting anything up ahead of us, ah, we don't have any cells but, ah, it looks pretty grim up there." R10 replied, "... you can deviate as necessary for weather north or south, just keep me advised." The pilot asked, "... how's it looking, ah, to the north, northeast?" R10 replied, "... I'm showing just moderate precip towards the northeast. I don't think there's any significant cells. I think most of them have dissipated, but there is a significant one to your, ah, one o'clock clockwise to your three o'clock about thirty miles in diameter that you're skirting the edge of right now."

The pilot replied, "Okay, we're gonna go, ah, zero four zero to get around it."

At 1758:12, R10 instructed N85DW to contact ZMP sector 11 (R11) on frequency 133.4, and the pilot acknowledged.

At 1758:41, N85DW reported on R11's frequency, and the controller asked, "... how long do you expect to be on that heading?" The pilot replied, "Well til we're around the weather. We, ah, let you know, okay. He said it was thirty miles wide, ah, for us...." R11 acknowledged and instructed the pilot to proceed direct to FNT when able, and to climb to FL330. The radar track indicated the aircraft's approximate heading was 055 degrees.

At 1759: 23, the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) indicated that the copilot said, "Through eighteen. Altimeters? Got it? Anti-ice?"

At 1759:32, the CVR indicated the pilot responded, "As required off."

At 1759:33, the CVR indicated the copilot said, "Okay, I'm going to go on oxygen."

AT 1759:35, the CVR indicated the pilot said, "Rec lights off."

At 1759:43, the CVR indicated the copilot said, "Through eighteen thousand complete."

At 1759:53, R11 broadcast, "Attention all aircraft. Ah, Kansas City Convective, ah, Sigmet five niner Charlie for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Lake Superior available through HIWAS flight watch or through flight service". Neither the ATC transcript nor the CVR transcript indicated that N85DW attempted to obtain information about the convective sigmet.

The Convective SIGMET 59C was issued at 1757 on August 14, 2000, and was valid until 1955. The advisory covered portions of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Lake Superior, and was enclosed by the following navigation points:

From 70 miles west-southwest of Thunder Bay, Ontario (YQT), to 40 miles south of Thunder Bay (YQT), to 60 miles northwest of Rhinelander, Wisconsin (RHI), to 50 miles north-northeast of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota (MSP), to 40 miles north of Brainerd, Minnesota (BRD), to 70 miles west-southwest of Thunder Bay (YQT). The Convective SIGMET was issued for an area of severe thunderstorms moving from 290 degrees at 35 knots with tops above 45,000 feet. The advisory warned of tornadoes, hail to 2 inches, and wind gusts to 70 knots were possible. The issuance of the Convective SIGMET also implied a potential for severe or greater turbulence, severe icing, and low level wind shear.

At 1800:14, the CVR indicated the pilot said, "Visible moisture."

At 1800:38, R11 instructed N85DW to contact ZMP sector 34 (R34) on frequency 134.55, and the pilot acknowledged.

At 1800:54, the pilot reported on to R34's frequency and advised the controller 85DW was "deviating for weather." R34 instructed the pilot to "... let me know when you're able direct Flint." The pilot acknowledged and asked, "... are you painting anything, ah, at zero nine zero, ah, from us right now?"

At 1801:18, R34 replied, "... that heading for about another thirty miles and then if you start heading east're gonna probably stay north of some of the heavier weather."

Radar data indicated that N85DW was approximately 25 miles southwest of Duluth, Minnesota (DLH).

At 1803:09, the CVR indicated the pilot said, "... 'cause at ninety four miles, I'm gonna turn east. We got visible moisture and we got negative five so we got icing conditions. And we're not climbing... we're down to two twenty and I can't do anything about it... so we're gonna have to nurse it up to uh, twenty-nine. He's givin' us thirty-three... okay, we got Brainerd back. Ninety four miles would be thirty. I don't see anything out here. Tell 'em we'll take zero six zero right now. See what happens."

At 1804:09, the pilot of N85DW reported that he was turning to heading 060, the aircraft was approximately 5 miles south of DLH.

At 1804:52, R34 broadcast Weather Watch 686.

Weather Watch 686 was issued for the potential of tornadoes over portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin and was valid from 1815 to 2300. The axis of the weather watch box was identified from 65 statute miles north and south of a line from 30 miles south of Alexandria, Minnesota, to 20 miles south of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Hail surface and aloft to 2 inches, wind gusts to 70 knots, with maximum tops to 55,000 feet, and mean storm motion vector from 260 degrees at 35 knots.

At 1805:42, the pilot of N85DW asked R34, "Where's Alexandria, Wisconsin, sir ...?" R34 replied, "... from your position, ah, six o'clock and, ah, a hundred twenty five miles." The pilot responded, "Okay, thank you."

At 1805:50, the CVR indicated the copilot said, "We like things that way."

At 1805:57, the CVR indicated the copilot said, "There it is. Back there."

N85DW was at that time approximately 20 miles north of the area described by WW686.

At 1809:22, the CVR recorded, "sound similar to hydraulic pump cycling."

At 1811:35 the CVR recorded the sound of a "thud" followed by the "sound similar to decrease in engine RPM." The copilot made the statement, " That wasn't good."

At 1811:37, the CVR recorded the "sound similar to decrease in engine RPM."

At 1811:50, N85DW was at approximately FL312 and the pilot transmitted, "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, eight five delta whiskey lost both engines." R34 replied, "...the Ashland, Wisconsin airport [ASX] is aaahh, one o'clock, one thirty and about ten miles."

The pilot of N85DW asked how long the runway was at Ashland.

At 1812:14, the CVR recorded the copilot saying, "Try a re-light."

At 1812:20, R34 replied, "... runway two zero and two is, ah, five thousand one hundred and ninety nine feet by one hundred."

At 1812:27, N85DW reported, "Okay, request a vector, we got hit by lightning."

At 1812:35, CVR recorded the pilot saying, "Okay, you fly the airplane." The copilot responded, "Me fly?" The pilot said, "Yeah."

At 1812:40, R34 instructed N85DW to fly heading 180, and gave the pilot the identifier for Ashland, ASX.

At 1812:54, the CVR recorded, "ramping sound similar to engine ignition starts and continues." At 1813:06, the "ramping sound similar to engine ignition stops." The radar data indicated that N85DW was at about 30,300 feet mean sea level (msl).

At 1813:06, the CVR recorded the copilot saying, "Going to fly one seventy for best glide." The pilot responded, "Yeah."

At 1813:19, the CVR recorded, "ramping sound similar to engine ignition starts." At 1814:24, the "sound similar to engine ignition stops." The radar data indicated N85DW descended from about 29,200 feet to 26,700 feet during the 65 seconds of engine ignition sounds.

At 1813:32, the pilot reported that he would need a visual (approach) and asked for the weather at ASX. R34 read the ASOS weather report for ASX. R34 advised the pilot a VOR or GPS approach served runway 2, and repeated the identifier at the pilot's request. At this time the aircraft's radar returns indicated a ground track of approximately 180 degrees, 3.5 miles east of ASX.

At 1814:27, R34 advised the pilot that the weather at Ironwood, Michigan [IWD] was better. R34 advised the pilot it was about thirty-five miles east, and asked if he would like to try that airport. The pilot concurred and requested vectors to IWD.

At 1814:52, R34 instructed the pilot to "... make a left turn to a heading of ah zero six zero." R34 provided the identifier for IWD to the pilot and advised him that the weather was "... clear, ah visibility ten, the wind zero six zero at niner." The pilot requested a vector for IWD.

At 1815:27, the pilot said that he showed 28.9 miles west of IWD and R34 concurred. Radar data indicated the aircraft was 28.9 miles west of IWD.

At 1815:49, the CVR recorded, "sound similar to hydraulic pump cycling."

At 1815:54, the CVR recorded the copilot saying, "One seventy one on the speed." The pilot responded, "Yeah."

At 1816:04, R34 instructed the pilot to change to frequency 133.55.

At 1816:24, the CVR recorded, "sound similar to precipitation."

At 1816:53, the pilot transmitted, "... not getting ya on thirty three four." R34 advised the pilot to remain on the current frequency, and advised him that the IWD runway length was 6,500 feet by 150 feet.

At 1817:06, the pilot asked, "... is there an approach there?"

At 1817:08, the CVR recorded, "sound similar to heavy precipitation."

R34 replied, "... an ILS 27 or a VOR DME GPS 27 or VOR GPS runway nine." The pilot asked for the ILS frequency, and R34 replied, "Ironwood VOR one zero eight point eight."

At 1817:26, R34 advised, "... we show you right on the approach course for the VOR GPS runway nine right now." Radar data indicated the aircraft was 20 miles west of the airport at FL201.

At 1817:43, the CVR recorded, "s

NTSB Probable Cause

the pilot's improper in-flight decision, the pilot's continued flight into known adverse weather, the pilot's failure to turn on the continuous ignition in turbulence, and the pilot's failure to follow the procedures for an airstart. Factors included the thunderstorms, the lightning strike, and the woods.

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