Sylvia, the blogger behind the Fear of Landing blog and Sulako of Sulako’s Blog, have both recently written about a chilling accident report that is a must read by all pilots. The report tells what happened during a March 30th, 2008 incident where a Cessna Citation 500 took off from Biggin Hill and began to experience engine vibration. The pilots declared an emergency and declared their intent to return to Biggin Hill but they never made it. Instead, they crashed into a house and both the pilots and their three passengers were killed.
Sylvia does an excellent job of weaving the actual cockpit transmissions in with excerpts from the accident report plus her own commentary (along with some from Sulako). However and to make a long story short, the aircraft began to experience vibrations and the pilots made the decision to shut down one of the engines. This caused the plane to descend – fatally.
Hence, Sylvia noted that:
The big question is: why were the pilots so insistent on shutting down the engines. If they had simply turned around and returned to Biggin Hill without doing anything else, it would have been a trivial incident. Having shut down an engine and discovered the pitch had changed but the vibration hadn’t stopped, they had a further chance to ignore the vibration and concentrate on reaching the airfield.
Sylvia also pointed out that one commenter on Sulako’s blog had asked whether or not the vibrations were so severe that the pilots thought structural damage might have occurred if it continued. Hence, the pilots may have felt that they NEEDED TO DO SOMETHING or anything to make the vibrations stop.
However, Sylvia concluded that:
In this sad case, doing nothing would have been the best solution of all.
Certainly, the Biggin Hill accident offers a lesson for every pilot.