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N550BP accident description

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Crash location 43.036666°N, 87.856389°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Milwaukee, WI
43.038902°N, 87.906474°W
2.5 miles away

Tail number N550BP
Accident date 04 Jun 2007
Aircraft type Cessna 550
Additional details: None

NTSB description

"The following is an INTERIM FACTUAL SUMMARY of this accident investigation. A final report that includes all pertinent facts, conditions, and circumstances of the accident will be issued upon completion, along with the Safety Board's analysis and probable cause of the accident:" ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On June 4, 2007, at 1600 central daylight time, a Cessna 550 (Citation II), N550BP, piloted by a crew of two airline transport rated pilots, was destroyed when it impacted the waters of Lake Michigan near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 14 CFR Part 135 medical transport flight was operating on an instrument flight rules flight plan. Weather conditions at the time of the accident consisted of visual meteorological conditions near the surface with instrument meteorological conditions at higher elevations. Both pilots and four passengers were fatally injured. The flight originated from the General Mitchell International Airport (MKE), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about 3 minutes prior to the accident, and its intended destination was Willow Run Airport (YIP), near Detroit, Michigan.

The airplane was operated by Marlin Air, Incorporated, of Belleville, Michigan under contract with the University of Michigan Health System, and the accident flight was conducted as a medical/air ambulance flight for the purpose of organ procurement for transplant. The airplane had flown from YIP earlier in the day and was returning to YIP when the accident occurred.


The airplane was destroyed by the impact with the water. Recovery of the wreckage revealed severe fragmentation of all components of the airplane. Post accident examinations of the airplane and components were conducted subsequent to the underwater recovery of the wreckage.


FAA records showed that the Captain held an Airline Transport Pilot certificate with a Cessna Citation (CE-500) type rating. He had completed Part 135 proficiency and line checks on April 24, 2007., and was qualified as a check airman in CE-500/550 airplanes for Marlin Air operations effective August 15, 2005. He held a First Class airman medical certificate dated March 29, 2007, with the following restrictions: "Must wear corrective lenses for distant vision," and "Not valid for any class after March 31, 2008."

FAA records showed that the First Officer (FO) was initially issued an Airline Transport Pilot certificate on September 17, 1991. He added a CE-500 type rating on March 20, 1997. At the time of the accident, the FO held a First Class airman medical certificate dated August 7, 2006, with the following restrictions: "Holder shall wear correcting lenses while exercising the privileges of his airman certificate."


The Cessna Citation model 550 (Citation II) twin turbo-fan airplane was powered by two Pratt and Whitney JT15D-4 engines, and was configured in a business seating arrangement. It was one of two Cessna Citations that were operated by Marlin Air, and was used for on-demand charter operations and as a backup airplane under the University of Michigan's contract with Marlin Air for organ procurement flights.


The recorded weather about 9 minutes prior to the accident was: wind from 340 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 19 knots, visibility 9 miles in light rain, scattered clouds at 1,600 feet, ceiling broken at 3,000 feet, overcast at 3,500 feet, temperature 17 degrees C, dew point temperature 15 degrees C, altimeter setting 29.53 inches of Hg.


Initial information provided by FAA ATC recordings of voice communications between the airplane and air traffic control revealed that the flight crew reported an emergency and their intention to return to MKE. During the communications, one of the pilots reported that they had experienced a runaway trim.


Recordings retrieved from the airplane's cockpit voice recorder contained comments by the Captain, who was the flying pilot, that he was "fighting the controls". The first indication on the recording relating to "fighting the controls" occurred about 18 seconds after the FO called out "rotate", 11 seconds after the Captain called for the yaw damper, and less than one second after the FO acknowledged a turn to a heading of 050 degrees. Later in the recording, the Captain is heard to say "something is wrong with the trim"; "I'm fighting the controls. It wants to turn left hard" and "…she's rolling on me. Help me help me."


A detailed examination of the airplane was conducted subsequent to the underwater recovery of the wreckage. Examination of the flight instruments found with the wreckage indicated that the airplane impacted the water approximately 243 knots indicated airspeed, 42 degrees nose down, and 115 degrees left wing down. No evidence of a pre-impact failure of either engine was found. Portions of all major structural and control surface components were accounted for during the examinations. No pre-impact failures of structural members of the airplane were identified. Examination of recovered components from the control system and autopilot systems were conducted. Details of the wreckage and systems examinations are contained in the Group Chairman Factual report.


Initial examination of the radar data for the flight shows the airplane departing MKE and executing a climbing right turn to a northeast heading. The airplane's initial climb lasted approximately one minute at which time the airplane leveled off for approximately 16 seconds at an altitude of 3,900 feet. The airplane then begins another climb at about 1,300 feet per minute. This climb lasted about 32 seconds at which time the airplane's pressure altitude was 4,400 feet. The radar data then showed the airplane in a descending left turn for the remaining 69 seconds of the data. The average descent rate during this period was 2,260 feet per minute. The last radar return showed the airplane at 1,800 feet pressure altitude.

The wreckage debris field was located about 0.2 nautical miles southeast of the last radar return. Further examination of the data indicated that the airplane's descent rate reached about 19,000 feet per minute during the final seconds of the flight.


The Federal Aviation Administration, Cessna Aircraft, Pratt and Whitney, Honeywell, and Marlin Air, were parties to the investigation


(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.