Airplane, While Flying Straight And Level, Suddenly Began A Steep Descent And Spun Near Vertically To The Ground

Location: Marietta, OH Accident Number: ERA23FA024
Date & Time: October 18, 2022, 07:09 Local Registration: N515GK
Aircraft: Beech E-90 Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Positioning

On October 18, 2022, at 0709 eastern daylight time, a Beech E-90, N515GK, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident in Marietta, Ohio. The two commercial pilots were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 positioning flight.

The flight originated at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH), Columbus, Ohio about 0640 and was enroute to Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport (PKB), Parkersburg, West Virginia. Preliminary Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) data revealed that after takeoff from CMH, the airplane climbed and turned on a ground track of 115° then leveled off at 11,000 ft mean sea level (msl) where it remained for most of the enroute portion of the 75-nautical mile flight.

Preliminary air traffic control communication information revealed that the flight crew were in communication with the Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center during the enroute portion the flight and that all communications with the air traffic controllers were normal with no indication of any irregularities.

As the airplane approached PKB, the controllers cleared the flight to descend and maintain 4,000 ft msl, then subsequently cleared it for the RNAV RWY 21 approach into PKB. Shortly after, the flight was instructed to contact the PKB control tower. The subsequent exchanges with the controllers there were normal. About 1109, as the airplane was on a 3-mile final approach, the controllers cleared the flight for landing, which was acknowledged by the flight crew. There were no additional communications received from the flight crew. Multiple eyewitnesses located on the airport and area surrounding the accident site reported that the airplane, while flying straight and level, suddenly began a steep descent and spun near vertically to the ground. Security camera footage from multiple sources showed the airplane’s descent through impact, which was generally consistent with the eyewitness’s accounts.

Preliminary weather information at the time of the accident indicated that there were pilot reports throughout the area for trace to moderate icing conditions and AIRMETs moderate icing. Weather satellite data showed supercooled liquid water clouds from 1,300 ft agl to about 8,000 ft agl. The airplane impacted a car dealership parking lot at an elevation of 614 ft msl, about 3 miles northeast of the approach end of runway 21 at PKB. The airplane struck a vehicle before coming to rest on level pavement. The wreckage path was oriented on a heading of 305° magnetic. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. The cockpit and forward portions of the fuselage were crushed aft.

A significant post-impact fire ensued, consuming a majority of the fuselage and the cockpit area. The fuselage above the floorboards was totally consumed by fire. The instrument panel and all associated instrumentation, gauges and switches were severely impact damaged and thermally damaged. The left and right flaps, which were significantly damaged by impact and post impact fire, remained attached to their respective mounts; the actuators indicated a flap position of 15°.

Partial flight control continuity from the cockpit to the ailerons, elevator, and rudder was established through cables, bell cranks, and push pull rods. All breaks in the cables and push/pull rods were consistent with heat and overload damage. The pneumatic anti-icing system was consumed by post impact fire; the switches were impact and thermally damaged, and a reliable determination of their post impact positions could not be made.

Both engines were located in the wreckage path, and both displayed significant impact and thermal damage. There were no indications of any pre-impact mechanical anomalies to any of the engine components that would have precluded normal engine operation. Both left and right propeller assemblies were detached from their respective engines. All 4 blades remained attached to their respective hubs. All four blades on both sides exhibited severe s-bending, chordwise scraping, and leading edge gouges. The wreckage was retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov