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NTSB releases factual report on fatal crash of NatureAir flight

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a factual report detailing the Dec. 31, 2017 NatureAir crash that killed all 12 people on board.

As the name suggests, a factual report “consolidates relevant factual information and is released at the conclusion of the fact-gathering phase of the investigation.” A final report, which provides analysis and probable cause, is typically released within two months of the factual report.

Below, we’ll highlight some aspects of the NTSB report, which can be read in its entirety on the organization’s website.

Summary of the NatureAir crash

On December 31, 2017, about 1156 central standard time, a Cessna 208B airplane, Costa Rican registration TI-BEI, crashed while maneuvering after takeoff from runway 3 at Islita Airport (MRIA), near Corozalito, Costa Rica. The 2 flight crewmembers and 10 passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and post-impact explosion and fire.

The airplane was registered to and operated by Nature Air, San José, Costa Rica, as a commercial charter flight operating under Costa Rican flight regulations. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was originating at the time of the accident with an intended destination of Juan Santamaría International Airport (MROC), San Jose, Costa Rica.

The captain, first officer, and aircraft

Limited documentation of the pilot’s training was provided during the investigation. The training documents confirmed that the captain had received ground training starting in October 2017, but there were no records showing completion of required flight training or of any check flights or IOE.

Training documents received during the investigation indicated that the first officer had received the specified training.

The airplane [a Cessna 208B Caravan, serial number 208B0900] was maintained in accordance with an Approved Aircraft Inspection Program (AAIP).

The airport and weather

Islita Airport was a privately owned, nontower-controlled airport located near the town of Corozalito, Costa Rica.

The airport had a single paved runway, runway 3/21, that was about 3,000 ft long and 30 ft wide. The runway pavement was cracked and had vegetation growing through the cracks at the south end.

The runway was in a valley with rising terrain on all sides except to the south, which led to the Pacific Ocean.

The Nature Air GOM stated that pilots would receive additional, airport-specific training before operating to or from airports with special characteristics; however, the operator provided no listing of such airports.

[The airport] was equipped with two structures, one at each end of the airstrip’s runway pavement, to accommodate windsocks; at the time of the accident, neither structure was equipped with a windsock.

The wreckage and other evidence

The airplane wreckage was removed from the accident site before NTSB arrival. The accident site was located on a heavily wooded hillside about 0.4 sm northeast (024°) of the departure end of runway 3 at an elevation of 238 ft msl. … Based on the limited damage to surrounding tree canopy, the airplane impacted the slope in a near-vertical attitude.

The airframe systems could not be examined due to the extensive fire and impact damage.

Description of the crash

[Based on surveillance footage], the airplane’s groundspeed was estimated to be 68±3 kts shortly after takeoff and the airplane was climbing about 715 ft/minute. Several seconds later, the airplane was descending about 1,510 ft/minute and its groundspeed was 82±4 kts. Its bank angle reached up to 75º right-wing-up at that time; the airplane impacted the ground shortly thereafter.

Additional information

The NTSB is examining three different takeoff scenarios to determine if the airplane had sufficient climb performance to clear the terrain surrounding the airport. … The airplane had been involved in a bird strike earlier that day. However, “the flight characteristics and controllability of the airplane would not have been adversely affected.”

We’ll provide a summary of the final report once it’s released by the NTSB.

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