On January 2, 2023, an Embraer EMB-505 (aka Phenom 300), N555NR, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at the Provo Municipal Airport, Provo, Utah. The pilot sustained fatal injuries, two passengers sustained serious injuries, and one passenger sustained minor injuries.
The aircraft crashed immediately after rotation from runway 13. A witness stated that aircraft appeared to “pull up steep,” roll to the left, and the left wing impacted the ground. ADSB data confirms that the aircraft only made a few feet off the ground before losing control.
Was snowy weather the primary cause of the accident?
The accident occurred on a snowy winter day in Provo, and some have initially speculated that the cause of the accident was wing icing or snow contamination. Indeed, the weather report at the time of takeoff listed freezing temperatures and snow.
KPVU 022000Z VRB06KT 3SM -SN BR OVC010 M01/M02 A2978 RMK AO2 P0000 $Weather Report at the time of accident indicating snow and 1-degree Celsius temperature.
The aircraft was based at PVU and was in a heated hangar until departure. The NTSB preliminary report suggests that there was not sufficient time for snow to accumulate sufficiently to cause a loss of control at takeoff. The aircraft left the hangar at 10:55, started its engine by 11:20, and began its takeoff roll at 11:35. This information correlates with the ADBS data broadcast from the aircraft.
Since the time elapsed between leaving the hangar and departure was relatively short, contamination could have played a part in this accident, looks less likely in this incident to be the primary cause.
A more likely cause – slow speed
The ADBS data and the location of the wreckage point to a more likely primary cause of the accident – slow speed and premature rotation.
The ADBS data shows that the aircraft started to climb at approximately 99kts and just past the A2 intersection with runway 13. This would put rotation less than 1,600 ft from the threshold. The debris field shows an impact mark at 2,626 from the approach end of the runway. This would put the impact point just prior to the last ADBS reporting position at 127 kts in the diagram below.
The standard takeoff distance for an EMB-505 is 3,138 ft (MTOW, SL, ISA). However, turbine aircraft performance can vary greatly depending on outside air temperature and total weight of the fuel and passengers. We don’t know the total weight of the aircraft, but it was likely to be less than max takeoff weight. The route of flight was only about 600 nautical miles and the aircraft contained 4 passengers far short of the 10 total occupants it could carry. Additionally, the cold weather would provide better aircraft performance and a shorter takeoff roll. However, it unlikely that the above factors would allow for a safe takeoff in 1600 feet.
ADSB data also show that rotation occurred at approximately 99kts which is slower than the calculated Vr takeoff speeds for that approximate configuration between 104 and 108 kts.
The Vr speed is crucial because it is the speed at which the pilot begins to apply control inputs to cause the aircraft nose to pitch up, after which it will leave the ground. If the pilot’s inputs are too strong, the aircraft can leave the ground with insufficient speed to control the aircraft in the air.
A steep and early rotation would also support the witness statements that indicate the aircraft pulled up steeply, wobbled, and banked hard as it struck the ground. That characteristic wobble and wing drop is a sign of a wing stall.
The additional factor of potential wing contamination means that more speed should have been added to the rotation speed and could have contributed to the loss of control.
This aircraft was operated by the owner under 14 CFR Part 91. Part 91 flights are subject to less regulation than commercial charter or airline flights. However, the pilot of the flight still has a duty to calculate takeoff speeds, and takeoff distance, and operate his aircraft in a safe manner.
Winter flying requires an extra margin of safety to account for falling snow and slippery conditions.
ALG attorney, Casey DuBose, is intimately familiar with PVU as it was the airport where he learned to fly and where he often flew with students as a CFI based out of Spanish Fork.
We urge anyone injured in this accident to reach out for support and consultation.