The National Transportation Safety Board released the following factual information Monday about the agency’s ongoing investigation into Saturday’s fatal crash of a Pilatus PC-12 airplane in Chamberlain, South Dakota.
The crash occurred at about 12:30 p.m. CST shortly after departure from Chamberlain Municipal Airport. Nine of the 12 occupants of the airplane suffered fatal injuries in the crash. The three survivors were injured.
The pilot and passengers arrived in Chamberlain on Friday, Nov. 29 at about 9:30 a.m. CST for an annual pheasant hunting trip. Shortly after arrival, the pilot purchased 150 gallons of Jet A fuel from an automated fuel pump. The airplane remained parked on the airport ramp until the accident flight on Nov. 30.
The pilot filed an instrument flight rules plan with the Federal Aviation Administration and received a clearance to fly direct from Chamberlain, a non-towered airport, to Idaho Falls, Idaho, with a planned departure time of 12:20 p.m. CST. The plane departed Chamberlain at 12:26 p.m. CST. When the pilot did not activate the flight plan after departure, the FAA issued an alert for a missing airplane.
At 12:35 p.m. CST, an AWOS-3 automated weather observation station at the Chamberlain airport recorded weather as follows: winds from 020 degrees (north/northeast) at 6 knots (7 mph), ½ mile visibility with moderate snow and icing, low-level windshear, and clear air turbulence conditions with overcast skies. The base of the cloud layer was recorded at 500 feet above the ground.
The airplane departed on runway 31 and crashed in a field about 1 mile north of the airport. The Pilatus PC-12 airplane is not required to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder. Investigators will be looking for any avionics or engine monitoring equipment with non-volatile memory that could yield information relevant to the investigation.
The airplane was equipped with an automated dependent surveillance broadcast system (ADS-B), which records parameters that will help investigators determine the performance of the airplane by evaluating the flight track, altitude and speed from takeoff to the end of the flight.
Three NTSB investigators arrived at the accident site Monday afternoon after being delayed by inclement weather. Over the coming days they will work on documenting the airplane and wreckage pattern, examining its systems, flight controls, and engine. In addition, any witnesses to the crash will be interviewed. Interviews with the surviving passengers will also be requested.
Investigators are expected to complete their work in Chamberlain by the weekend. A preliminary report, detailing the factual information developed at this early stage of the investigation, will be published in about two weeks. The entire investigation, which will result in a determination of probable cause and will list any contributing factors, is expected to be completed in 12-24 months.