Host Max Trescott discusses the fatal crash of a Falcon jet in Georgia with aviation expert Rob Mark. The NTSB final report revealed a series of factors contributing to the accident. These included misreading a NOTAM regarding the ILS glideslope, difficulty entering the initial approach fix into the navigation system, high and fast arrival at the final approach fix, unauthorized use of airbrakes. It’s also possible that they didn’t realize the ILS approach required flying a procedure turn. They were also flying a black hole approach in dark night conditions with minimal ground lights, but apparently weren’t referencing the PAPI visual indicator.
The captain, aged 73, had extensive flight experience but had undergone retraining due to unsatisfactory performance in certain areas. The first officer, aged 63, had a significant number of flight hours, but received only a Second in Command (SIC) type rating, because of performance issues.
The podcast delves into the transcript of communications between the flight crew and Atlanta Center, highlighting confusion regarding NOTAMs and the approach procedure. The crew, flying a cargo route from El Paso to Thomson, Georgia, requested information on the ILS approach, but there was a misunderstanding regarding the status of the glideslope and localizer. The approach required a procedure turn, which the crew seemingly missed, leading to an unstable approach.
There were delays in programming the initial approach fix (IAF) into the navigation system, possibly due to confusion over the fix’s identification. The crew ultimately crossed the IAF at an altitude significantly higher than prescribed, leading to a steep descent to intercept the glideslope.
Max created a software simulation of the final minutes of the flight that revealed a rapid descent rate and an unstable approach. Despite warnings from the captain about being high, attempts to correct the descent were ineffective, ultimately resulting in impact with trees just short of the runway. This was a classic black hole approach, in which there are few lights on the ground before the runway. A Boeing simulator study of a black hole approach showed that pilots consistently crash short of the runway, and so they must have either an electronic or visual glide slope. During this accident, the glide slope was out of service.
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