NTSB released information on the August 2019 crash of a Cessna Citation Latitude at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee. Highlighted in the docket is a detailed account of a highly unstable approach that led to a botched landing and runway excursion.
VMC) and calm winds. Recordings from the aircraft data acquisition unit and cockpit voice recorder paint a picture of a flight that was anything but perfect. During this flight, several mismanaged threats and errors and poor crew resource management resulted in a serious crash.
VMC conditions did have a few underlying, perhaps unrecognized threats, such as high terrain near the airport, a relatively short runway, and operations at an uncontrolled airport. These threats, however, are not insurmountable and can be easily mitigated and managed by a professional crew flying a highly capable business jet.
TAWS) excessive closure rate caution and warning alerts (“terrain, terrain” followed by “whoop, whoop, pull up”) sounded. At this point, the aircraft had descended to within 710 feet of the terrain. The crew continued.
TAWS system would sound four additional alerts. The next at approximately 1,400 feet agl and 201 kias when the excessive descent rate alert (“sink rate”) would sound as the rate of descent reached -2,440 fpm. This alert was followed by three rate of terrain closure alerts (“caution terrain,” “caution terrain,” followed by “whoop, whoop, pull up”) all below 1,000 feet agl; the maximum rate of descent during this period was -1,700 fpm. Following each TAWS alert, the crew elected to continue the approach.
IFR approaches available to this runway. Terrain avoidance and navigation might have been easier had the crew elected to fly the RNAV GPS approach to Runway 6; this would add both lateral and vertical guidance to the runway, while providing terrain clearance.
CVR transcript there were no standard approach callouts from the first officer (PM). Industry best practices recommend, at a minimum, a callout at both 1,000 and 500 feet above the airport elevation. These callouts provide an awareness and crosscheck of proper altitude, airspeed, and configuration to meet stabilized approach criteria (another best practice).
PM calls out “stable” or “unstable” at these altitudes—also reinforce “no fault go-around” policies that promote discontinuing an unstable approach without retribution. Likewise, an operator must also provide guidance to pilots to respond immediately to TAWS alerts—any alert below 1,000 feet agl should warrant a go around.
Pilot, safety expert, consultant, and aviation journalist – Kipp Lau writes about flight safety and airmanship for AIN. He can be reached at email@example.com