The accident was reported to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Civil Aviation Department (CAD) on the evening of 6 February 2007. The same evening, a request for assistance was made to the United Kingdom Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), under the terms of a pre-existing Memorandum of Understanding; AAIB Inspectors arrived in the TCI on 8 February 2007. The TCI CAD appointed a TCI national as Investigator-in-Charge, tasked with conducting an investigation in accordance with the provisions of Annex 13 to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Convention. The investigation was conducted by: Mr P Forbes (Investigator-in-Charge), Mr K Fairbank (AAIB Operations), Mr P Thomas (Operations), Mr A Robinson (AAIB Engineering) and Mr K Malcolm (Engineering). The manufacturers of the aircraft, the engines and the propellers assisted during the later stages of the investigation.
VQ-TIU crashed soon after takeoff from North Caicos Airport, at the start of a flight bound for Grand Turk, TCI. On board were one pilot and five passengers. The pilot received fatal injuries in the accident; the passengers mostly suffered serious injuries, but all survived the accident. Weather conditions at the time were good, but it was after nightfall; the moon had not risen and there was little cultural lighting in the area.
The aircraft crashed into a shallow lagoon approximately one nautical mile south-east of North Caicos Airport. Wreckage was spread along a trail that extended in excess of 370 m along a track of 220°(M). The aircraft’s fuselage had come to rest comparatively intact, although lying in an inverted attitude. Evidence from the accident site indicated that the aircraft had struck the water in a nominally upright attitude, with only a moderate rate of descent but at relatively high forward speed.
From a detailed examination of the wreckage and the circumstances of the accident, it was concluded that the aircraft was structurally intact and probably under control when it struck the surface. The evidence indicated that each engine was producing power throughout the short flight and at the time of impact. Although anomalies were found which suggested that a possible power asymmetry may have existed, this should not have been sufficient to cause the pilot serious control difficulties.
None of the passengers described an obvious problem with the aircraft during the flight, and most remained unaware of the impending crash. The circumstances of the accident suggested that the pilot became spatially disorientated, to the extent that the aircraft diverged from its intended flight path and reached an irrecoverable situation. The environmental conditions were conducive to a disorientation event, and a postmortem toxicological examination showed that the pilot had a level of blood alcohol which, although below the prescribed limit, was significant in terms of piloting an aircraft and would have made him more prone to disorientation.
The evidence indicated that the pilot had probably started a recovery to normal flight, but too late to prevent the accident. However, his actions had the effect of reducing the descent rate and placing the aircraft in a nearly level attitude at impact. This lessened the impact damage and helped preserve the fuselage structure relatively intact, increasing the passengers’ chance of survival.
The investigation identified the following causal factors:
The aircraft adopted an excessive degree of right bank soon after takeoff. This led to a descending, turning flight path which persisted until the aircraft was too low to make a safe recovery.
The pilot probably became spatially disorientated and was unable to recognise or correct the situation in time to prevent the accident.
The investigation identified the following contributory factors:
The environmental conditions were conducive to a spatial disorientation event.
The pilot had probably consumed alcohol prior to the flight, which made him more prone to becoming disorientated.
The flight was operated single-pilot when two pilots were required under applicable regulations. The presence of a second pilot would have provided a significant measure of protection against the effects of the flying pilot becoming disorientated.
No Safety Recommendations are made.
Download full report:
2-2010 VQ-TIU.pdf (1,488.85 kb)