The morning of October 30th 2014 started out just as any other work day at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. On this particular day, Flight Safety International (FSI) personnel came in to work and started their days by firing up the flight simulators preparing to train pilots. On the other side of the street, a pilot arrives at an FBO, and prepares his aircraft for flight. Little did they know that their paths would very soon collide in a sad and unfortunate chain-of-events.
At approximately 0950 hrs, a Beechcraft King Air B200 with one crew member aboard departed Runway 1R. Shortly after takeoff, at approximately 150 to 200 feet AGL, the left engine failed. The aircraft veered left off centerline, passed over some hangars, then struck the Northeast corner of the FSI Cessna Pilot Learning Center building coming to rest on the far west side of the roof. The aircraft struck the part of the building that housed multiple flight simulators that were in use at the time of impact.
Airport Police and Fire (APF) received the notification that no one in our profession ever wants to hear, “Alert 3”. The Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters responded and began to go to work as they have been trained to do. The initial response equipment included one (1) rapid intervention vehicle, one (1) Oshkosh Striker 1500, one (1) Oshkosh Striker 3000, and multiple law enforcement vehicles. APF quickly setup a Unified Command System (UCS) as mutual aid agencies arrived on scene. Through the UCS we were able to utilize the resources that were needed in an efficient manner. Within minutes following the accident, key personnel from FSI arrived at the Emergency Operation Center, and provided Incident Command (IC) information on the interior layout of the simulator bay, as well as how many individuals were inside. From that information, IC was able to create a list of potential victims.
APF initiated its mandatory employee callback procedures, and also activated their Incident Family Support Team (IFST) due to the amount of lives that were affected in this incident. The IFST is a group of local volunteers that prepares for a major emergency, accident or disaster. The IFST’s mission is to provide a safe and secure location, as well as support to the friends and family members of the victims. The IFST is a strictly volunteer group of Airport employees, Airport tenants, clergy members, and private citizens. At the time, the Wichita Airport Authority (WAA) had created identification badges that would be handed out to the arriving IFST members once they arrived on scene, however a lesson learned from this accident was that (non-WAA) team members experienced difficulty getting through city and county law enforcement blocking the roadways without having anything that identified them as being on this team. The WAA has since changed this procedure, and now has provided identification badges to all of the IFST members that they retain in their personal possession at all times. During this event the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) deployed their Family Assistance coordinator to the accident site. The airport IFST worked hand and hand with the NTSB on contacting and providing support to the family members and friends of the victims of this accident. Since the accident occurred, the organizer of the IFST for the airport was invited to Washington D.C. to be a guest speaker at the request of the NTSB at a conference on family assistance in aviation accidents.
The hours and days to follow were challenging due to building structure instability. The WAA made a priority to do whatever they could to get the work that was needed done, and to support whomever needed support. Shortly after the NTSB arrived, the airport worked hard to provide everything that was requested, i.e. a building to place the aircraft engines for inspection, contacting a recovery company to recover evidence, as well as contacting a company to remove the outer wall to secure the unstable building.
Due to this incident, the airport was shut down to incoming flights for only three (3) hours. Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport is an Index C airport, and provides ARFF services to its aeronautical operators, including two on-field manufacturers, two factory service centers, scheduled passenger airlines, scheduled cargo airlines, general aviation, and the military.
The Wichita Airport Authority learned through this accident that communications will likely be the first to go. Sedgwick County had just completed a massive upgrade to their radio system. During this time-frame, some of the responding units had the wrong frequency programmed in their radios. This was realized while in route to the accident. However, due to the UCS system that was set up they were able to communicate without hesitation between all arriving mutual aid agencies.
On that very sad and tragic day, four (4) individuals lost their lives. This included three (3) people inside one of the simulators, and the pilot of the accident aircraft. The sad and tragic irony of this event was that three (3) individuals that lost their lives inside of the simulator were in the process of either training or being trained to respond and react to just such an event.
About the author: Roger Xanders has worked for the City of Wichita for 26 years. Roger is currently the Chief of Airport Police and Fire at Dwight D. Eisenhower (ICT) for the last four years and has worked his way up through the ranks.