Tragic IFR Accident Results In Near Vertical Impact

Location: LaCrosse, KS Accident Number: CEN20LA122
Date & Time: 03/17/2020, 0919 CDT Registration: N274PM
Aircraft: Cessna 208 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter – Non-scheduled

On March 17, 2020, about 0919 central daylight time (CDT), a Cessna 208B, N274PM, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident about 7 nautical miles northwest of La Crosse, Kansas. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 on-demand cargo flight.

The Planemasters Ltd. flight, PMS1670, was being operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan from Wichita Dwight D Eisenhower National Airport (ICT), Wichita, Kansas, to Hays Regional Airport (HYS), Hays, Kansas. A review of Federal Aviation Administration preliminary air traffic control (ATC) communications and commercially available radar and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast data revealed that the flight departed ICT about 0751 CDT. At 0825, the HYS automated weather observation service (AWOS) was reporting, in part, winds from 080° at 11 knots, visibility 1 statute mile, and overcast clouds at 200 ft above ground level. About 0831, the radar and ADS-B data were lost as the airplane descended through 4,000 ft while being vectored for the instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 34. Shortly thereafter, the pilot executed a missed approach, and about 0843, the airplane was re-acquired by radar and ADS-B. The pilot stated to ATC his intention to attempt the ILS approach to runway 34 a second time.

At 0841, the HYS AWOS indicated that visibility had dropped to ¼ statute mile in fog. About 0853, radar and ADS-B data were again lost as the airplane descended on the instrument approach. About 0859, the airplane was re-acquired by radar northwest of HYS. At that time, the pilot stated his intention to divert to Great Bend Airport (GBD), Great Bend, Kansas. A review of radar and ADS-B data showed the airplane begin a turn to the south toward GBD
while climbing to about 7,000 ft. About 0918, the airplane began a descent and left turn. The last radar and ADS-B targets were observed about 0918:48.

The wreckage was discovered in a field about 0945. The airplane’s tail and wings were visible above ground, with the forward fuselage and engine section buried several feet under the terrain, consistent with a near-vertical, high-speed impact. The main landing gear was bent aft towards the tail with the left and right main wheel protruding from the ground. The smell of Jet-A fuel was present at the accident site.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.