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Report Says Weather Played Major Part In Plane Crash

The plane that crashed, killing all nine people on board.

The plane that crashed, killing all nine people on board.

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Tribune Staff Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

A PRELIMINARY report into the plane crash that killed nine people in Grand Bahama on November 9 attributed the main cause of the tragedy to deteriorating weather conditions that reduced visibility resulting in a missed landing on the aircraft’s second approach to the airport.

The report was released yesterday.

In its findings, the Department of Civil Aviation’s Air Accident Investigation & Prevention Unit (AAIPU) explained that on the day of the crash, Meteorological Department officials released a weather report indicating that there was a frontal boundary over the northwest Bahamas.

Additionally, the weather report said there was the possibility of heavy showers and moderate to severe turbulence in the aircraft’s flying vicinity. It listed the daytime visibility at 1.5 at the time of the crash.

“The aircraft was unable to land on first attempt, due to heavy rain showers and reduced visibility,” the report said. “The crew executed a missed approach procedure and continued outbound and entered the published holding pattern at 2,000 feet. Some time after entering the holding pattern, ATC (air traffic control) reported the weather as improving and thus a second. . .approach was requested by the crew and granted by ATC.

“During the return for the second instrument approach, ATC reported the weather as again deteriorating due to rain and haze. While attempting to find the runway visually during the second approach, the aircraft descended and subsequently struck a towering crane at the Grand Bahama Shipyard.”

The report said the plane hit two support beams above the crane operator’s cab, approximately 115 feet mean sea level.

After losing the outboard portion of its right wing and fuel tank, the aircraft continued its “downward, uncontrolled descent, crashing inverted into a mound of garbage at the City Services Limited, (a garbage and metal recycling plant) which is located adjacent to the Grand Bahama Shipyard,” the report said.

The aircraft stopped after colliding with a metal generator-housing unit located at the recycling plant, the investigators said.

Pilot, Captain Stanley Thurston and co-pilot, First Officer Frahkan Cooper were licensed and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the ill-fated eight-seater Learjet 36, AAIPU officials said.

Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI) Senior Pastor Dr Myles Munroe, 60, his wife Ruth, BFMI Vice-president Dr Richard Pinder, newly ordained youth pastors Lavard “Manifest” Parks, his pregnant wife Radel, and their five-year-old son Johanan died when the jet hit a crane at the Grand Bahama Shipyard. American citizen Diego DeSantiago was also on board the flight.

They all died immediately on impact.

“(Both pilots) were in possession of valid first class medical certificates, which were issued in November, 2014,” the report said.

“Day instrument meteorological conditions prevailed upon the departure of the aircraft from Odyssey Aviation, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the 24 minute flight to Freeport. The preliminary report has also confirmed that the Bahamas Area Forecast published on November 9, 2014 by the Bahamas Meteorological Department advised that there was a frontal boundary over the northwest Bahamas and lower, moving over the northern Bahamas.

“The aircraft uploaded 160 gallons of fuel prior to its departure, was provided with the current weather conditions upon contact with Freeport Air Traffic Control, and was cleared for an instrument approach.”

Investigators found that there was never a fire or explosion on board the Learjet as was previously speculated.

The aircraft was equipped with a Fairchild Model GA100 Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and 2 Honeywell International N1 Digital Electronic Engine Control monitors which were recovered and sent to the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, DC and Honeywell International in Wichita, Kansas respectively, for readout.

Bahamian civil aviation officials with the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Bombardier – the manufacturer of the aircraft – will reassemble in Washington, DC, next month, to continue investigations.

According to initial reports from the Department of Civil Aviation, the plane left Nassau shortly after 4pm and crashed around 5.10pm in Grand Bahama.

Dr Munroe was an internationally acclaimed author, motivational speaker and consultant who ministered around the world.

The group was flying into Grand Bahama from New Providence for an annual leadership conference organised by Dr Munroe.

A memorial for Dr Munroe and his wife will be held on December 3 beginning 6pm at the national stadium. Their funeral is scheduled for the next day at BFMI on Carmichael Road.

Comments

TalRussell 6 years ago

Comrades you have wonder, if just maybe the same "can do" qualities that had worked so well for Dr. Myles when he was inspiring others, may have also played a deadly part between himself and his fight crew? It is obvious from the preliminary crash incident report, that the pilots were in the cockpit making what would turn out be wrong and deadly decisions for all 9 on-board. Yet, there are reports of Dr. Myles communicating via his cellular phone during the landing approach into Freeport airport. Maybe the flight recorder will revel what we may never know for sure without it?

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Publius 6 years ago

When did the preliminary report state a CAUSE of the crash, as the Tribune erroneously claims? The report simply states what the conditions were and what were some of the actions taken by the crew and air traffic control. That is not the same thing as making a ruling or determination on the CAUSE of the crash. The Tribune has done a god awful job of reporting on this incident this far, as has the media in general

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

Definitely...there was never any doubt that weather played a very major 'contributing' part...but no matter how bad the weather, unless there was a MAJOR downdraft, the pilot should be flying that aircraft within the boundaries set by his own personal abilities, and also those boundaries that are set by the flight conditions at the time, in this case the flight was in IFR, he would have been shooting a very specific documented and laid out instrument approach to that runway. The impact was at 115 feet, according to this story and 1.9 miles out from the runway according to the story run in another publication...? That is crazy, and assuming no other mechanical situation or downdraft scenario that trumps my next statement, it makes for very reckless flying. I will be very curious to see the transcripts and possibly hear some of the CVR recordings. According to the published procedure...at 2.7 miles from the airport he shold be no lower than 680 feet...once he hits the 2.7 mile marker he is only permitted to descend to 480 feet until he has a good solid visual of the runway, at which point he can descend further in a controlled fashion for landing. 115 feet...he shouldn't be that low until he is nearly ontop of the threshold.

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Publius 6 years ago

Same thing I have been thinking too. If the media doesn't understand what it is reading when sent these things, it should seek understanding before publishing false information. The report issued is not a report on the cause of the crash. Determining the cause will take much more information than was presented in this preliminary report. Existing conditions and cause are not necessarily one and the same. I am also curious about the amount of fuel the pilot took off with. If I am not mistaken, 160 gallons would be about less than an hour's worth of fuel for the type of plane he was flying, no?

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

We don't know how much fuel he already had on board...he could have had significantly more...all we know is that he added 160 gallons to what he was already carrying. No plane sits around with empty fuel tanks. Quick websearch quotes the 36A as having a fuel burn of 173 GPH.

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Publius 6 years ago

Right, I was wondering how much fuel was in the plane before he fueled. I also looked up the specs for the plane and found the same fuel burn of 173 GPH.

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

Logic would have it that he had sufficient fuel on board for the original flight plan...he got the weather update prior to departure and gave himself an extra hour of fuel at the last minute for contingencies. I would have done the same thing. Flipping his flight from VFR to IFR conditions, an extra hour of fuel would give him PLENTY of reserves to fly to his alternate and still have 45 minutes to spare. Bearing in mind, in VFR conditions, you should have at least 30 minutes reserve in the tanks.

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Publius 6 years ago

Right. Well let's hope that logic, as you so correctly termed it, bares out in this aspect of the overall incident.

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

Just reviewing Google Earth...the distance from the very end of the approach end of RWY 6, to the GB Shipyard is 2.7 miles, which makes sense with the approach...they want you higher while you clear that work area. 1.9 miles puts him on the other side of the causeway, even with the Bahamian Brewery and the other big warehouse. He crashed more like 2.7 miles out...and, the actual distance on that approach is calculated from the VOR beacon which is in the middle of the field, not at the end of the runway, so the actual distance from the VOR to the shipyard is 3.5 nautical miles.

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Publius 6 years ago

When the report cited his distance from the runway I wondered to what extent that cited distance was accurate.

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duppyVAT 6 years ago

So, what is new here? This is The Bahamas ................. thats the first and last word on this report. May they rest in peace.

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TalRussell 6 years ago

Comrades a ILS Z approach procedure is available for runway 6 at Freepor Airport. The Locator Outer Marker (LOM) is located at 4 DME and immediately after the LOM, approach charts show the presence of two cranes with a height of 368 and 369 feet.........except they were attempting to land in poor visibility and I have it on good authority, that the PAPI lights of runway 6 were "unserviceable" at the time of the fatal crash. Maybe the Tribune's reporter will confirm condition of runway 6, on date of crash?

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

OK...Looking at the ILS Z approach...at the LOM at 4 DME, you intercept the glideslope at 1,350 feet...at which point you maintain the glideslope, you don't just drop over 1,000 feet in half a mile. Even in a non-precision approach like a VOR approach, you don't destabilize yourself that dramatically dropping down to your next approved altitude.

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Publius 6 years ago

This is what causes me to wonder exactly what was happening in that cockpit and with communications between the pilot and ATC prior to the crash.

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TalRussell 6 years ago

Contact as to weather conditions would have been made with FATC prior to takeoff from Nassau and from the report continued during their approach. Unfortunately, Freeprt has no radar, so ATC would have been aware plane's altitude at any time of flight, except from what told during flight crews communications.

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TalRussell 6 years ago

Don't be quick in discounting Dr. Myles 'can do" may have influenced the pilots land, against their better professional judgment?

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Publius 6 years ago

Well I know nothing of the specific "can do" factor you speak of, and I ofcourse do not know what happened in that cockpit in terms of the why and what, etc, but I do know that many professionals abandon what they know to be the right things to do when under orders or employed by persons of power and influence. I am not at all seeking to assert that these pilots in fact fell under such a spell, but it does happen often in life.

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

In theory...the ILS is meant to give you a consistent and stable glideslope/path into the runway...for simplicity sake, if you are at 1,400 feet at the outer marker, you are working down to 0 feet by the runway...so that would have him at 1,050' at 3 miles, 700' at 2 miles, 350' at 1 miles, then touchdown. 115 feet on the glideslope would have him about a half mile out from the numbers.

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Publius 6 years ago

Right, which is why I and so many others are wondering why he was so low at the point that he is said to have hit the crane.

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John 6 years ago

When Paradise Airways use to fly I always would say would not fly on that airline again when experiencing a bad landing on Paradise Island. Even though landing on a STAL craft is different from traditional landings, you could always feel when the pilot was battllng with cross wind or wind gusts on his approach. These aircraft use to 'dive' down to the runway and I always wondered how much margin there was for error or what would be the consequences if an engine 'died' when the aircraft was in this 'dive' or if a strong gust came at the wrong time..

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TalRussell 6 years ago

Comrades I have previously pointed out in my posts going back day of the fatal crash, Freeport's Airport HAS no radar. I cannot imagine the pilots not letting control tower know their location and altitude. My question is, did the controllers warn the pilots, they were too low, PULL UP YOU ARE GOING TO HIT THE CRANES?

Learjet Night Landing in Snowstorm!

………….//https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywYVL...">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywYVL...

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Publius 6 years ago

Wouldn't the plane's own instruments give such warnings to the pilots?

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TalRussell 6 years ago

Comrade I am thinking by the time pilots came to realize they were approaching at a dangerously low altitude, they lost control of plane and its wing clipped the crane. We pretty well know deadly flight misjudgments were being made in that cockpit. The investigators are good at what they do and I am confident they will have enough data to allow them piece together the final minutes and .seconds Dr, Myles flight.

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

Certain aircraft have advanced radar altimeters that you can set ground proximity alerts on...lets say you set it to beep when you get within 200 feet of terrain...they do not however have the ability to detect or predict obstacles such as towers or cranes. That is a pure visual thing...also, considering the weather, and the lack of radar on the field the ATC guy in the tower is limited to what he can see...he may not have been able to see the plane...if he could in heavy rain, his depth perception would have been severely compromised. As for the pilot, on a precision ILS approach, you mainly call the outer marker and start of final approach, then your next call is either a missed approach or airport in sight...at which point the controller clears you to land or gives you further instructions for your missed approach. There is not much talking or position reporting from the time you call the outer marker, to when you call a missed approach at your lowest decision height...typically most ILS approaches, if you cannot see the airport at the 200 feet mark, you execute the missed approach. He hit the crane at 115...

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

The 1.9 miles...OK...picking apart the distance from the airport...I can see what the report writer did. if you take the most extreme NE corner of the Shipyard...basically their fenceline, and you take the western fenceline that secures the airports perimeter, that distance is 1.9 miles...but when you are trying to analyze his actual position in relation to the approach to the actual runway, that figure is very misleading. If I take that building at the NE corner of the shipyard that next to the roundabout and measure out to the threshold of the runway, you are looking at 2.4 NM...extrapolating the approach...from 0 feet at the threshold (which it is not, technically it is about 1,000 feet down the runway), to 1,400 feet altitude at 4 miles out, he should have been at 840'. As you move that glideslope instrumentation down the runway to where it actually is...or is meant to be, his altitude should only have been higher still, probably closer to 900 feet. To be that far out of position he either encountered a major downdraft/microburst (possible), he had a mechanical failure (possible), or he was pushing the envelope and dropping below the glideslope in hopes of seeing the runway...obviously there would be other mitigating factors, very rarely is it ever just ONE thing that is pure cause of the crash. Without the weather none of this would have happened, was he low on fuel, was he being pressured by the boss to get into the airport, was he just being over confident and pushing the limits...we will need to wait for the full report to dig into it any further. Assuming no mechanical issues or radical microbursts, everything else unfortunately comes down to that dreaded phrase of pilot error.

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Publius 6 years ago

I agree with your assessment.

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TalRussell 6 years ago

Comrades I keep coming back to the 'can do" instructions to the pilots theory. Obviously, we are but speculated even if using the best data we have to date. But could the cause of the crash have been as simple as the pilots mistakenly thinking, other Freeport lights were runway lights? We do know for a fact they shouldn't have been flying where they were for the plane's wing clip the crane but why the deadly miscalculation? We may never learn all the why's that lead 9 lives being taken away from their families, loved ones on that fateful Sunday at Freeport.

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

The suggestion has been made that the pilot mistook some of the lights in the shipyard as the approach lights leading up to the runway. Unfortunately again, if this is the case, it comes straight back to pilot error. When flying in bad weather and having to depend on your instruments it is drummed into your head to trust your gauges, he would have had numerous indicators, from the DME coming off of the VOR, a plane like that would have a VERY nice GPS unit in it, he even had a second backup pilot in there that helps with the workload and is meant to catch glaring errors. If you are meant to be 2.5-3 miles out...the GPS would read it at closer to 3 as it would use the centre of the airfield, you need to trust that, and check yourself, and the glideslope and realize that 2.5-3 miles out from the physical landing strip, 115 feet is not the right altitude. So many of the instruments would have been feeding him the information that he needed to be well clear of those cranes. "HEY LOOK...runway lights...NO...I'm still 2.5 miles out, that can't be right..." Both pilots should have been checking and cross checking like crazy those last few minutes. Now...with all this being said, you've seen it happen a few times, usually at night, where a nice big airliner, lines up for a visual approach to what they believe is their destination and they land at some super small private strip or feeder airport. It can happen, but in those instances, it all comes down to pilot error and not having your brain in gear and making sense of the data that is being presented to you.

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

There is an error in the report with regard to the location of the crane... "The impact occurred with two support beams above the crane operator’s cab approximately 115 feet mean sea level (MSL). The crane was stationed at coordinates; latitude 26 degrees, 45 minutes 46.05 seconds North and Longitude 78 degrees, 45 minutes 25.20 seconds West." The west coordinates are spot on, but 26'45" north is way north in the water of Little Bahama Bank. If you change those coordinates to 26 degrees 31 (not 45) degrees, 46.05 minutes...that puts you right in the heart of the shipyard. I guess because 45 minutes was also in the west coordinate, it got transposed into the north coordinate by mistake. I guess in their hurry to get a preliminary report out they did not proof read their coordinates.

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TalRussell 6 years ago

Comrade once contact with Freeport's Tower has been established wouldn't they have remained until they are established on the ILS/have the runway in sight?

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

Well 'CONTACT' is a tricky term to use. You CONTACT Freeport tower on the radio...that does not mean that Freeport tower sees you, or has you in sight, and since they have no radar, they have no clue really as to your whereabouts at any given time. You would be talking with Approach typically while you are in the holding pattern and getting ready to shoot the approach...in most instances you are still talking with approach when you announce you are at the outer marker...in this case 4 miles out...there would be a transmission to the effect of ..."Approach, this is N17UF, at the outer marker beginning the approach." Approach would usually respond at that point and say something like..."Roger N17UF continue on the approach and contact the tower."...next would be switching channels to tower and saying something to the effect of "Freeport Tower, N17UF, checking in...on the ILS approach just inside the marker." Tower would likely respond with something like "Roger that N17UF, continue approach, advise when airport in sight or missed approach...current conditions at the field are...blah blah blah..." That's about the extent of the 'contact' per se. If the weather permits, the tower MIGHT be able to see him...may see a couple specks of his landing lights through the mist or rain, but really the controller is blind and just going by what he is being told by the pilot...he knows he is inside that marker, so within 4 miles...in a Lear doing 120 on the approach, that's 2 miles a minute, he should be touching down in 2 minutes. If you don't see or hear from him in 2 minutes, start asking questions.

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TalRussell 6 years ago

Comrade it is why, whats on flight recorder will answer many of the question you and I, along with many others are asking? I still need know, what if any role "can do" may have played in why the pilots never took the alternative airport landing option open to them and in their flight plan before taking off from Nassau? Statistically speaking, today's advanced avionics have certainly made flying safer than ever before. But too many plane crashes remind us of pilot miscalculations, which can quickly snowball into disasters with deadly consequences.

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B_I_D___ 6 years ago

Until they replace the pilots with full blown computer controls or robots, there will always be that chance of pilot error.

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TalRussell 6 years ago

Computers are already flying planes. They say OK pilot feed me the info and I know how take off, fly and land this plane. Only thing missing is; "On behalf da Captain Computer and the entire Electronic Flight Crew, welcome aboard"

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williebill 5 years, 12 months ago

Yes, he was cleared by the tower for the ILS 6 approach. But, it say's that weather improved in the holding pattern, then deteriorated once he began the next attempt to land. The report say's at some point the crew went visual. They were cleared for the ILS 06 approach again, but they must have had conditions good enough to go visual, so they made the decision based upon current conditions. They knew this airport well, and had done this approach and landed there many times. It looks as if the weather deteriorated below minimums for a visual approach. The runway has a precision approach path indicator, but it was out of service, this may have saved all of their lives. The airport needs to fix this instrument! At this point, if altimeter was not reset during a rapid change in pressure the crew could have been lower than the altimeter indicated. Since, they were going visual they lost the frame of reference, and had no back up reference to know their exact position. I,m guessing that once they realized where they were it was too late to go missed again. They were approaching very low, far away from the runway threshold to be on the ILS approach. It is not easy to fly missed approaches, especially in that type of aircraft. it is one of the most difficult procedures a pilot has to be prepared for. May God bless them all in His presence.

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