Date & Time: Jan 16, 2020 at 0806 LT
Flight Phase:
Takeoff (climb)
Flight Type:
Dutch Harbor - Adak
Crew on board:
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
On January 16, 2020, about 0806 Alaska standard time, a Raytheon Aircraft Company B200 airplane, Lifeguard N547LM, sustained substantial damage when it impacted the waters of the Bering Sea while departing from the Thomas Madsen Airport (PADU), Unalaska, Alaska (Port of Dutch Harbor). The airplane was being operated by Aero Air, as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 instrument flight rules (IFR) air ambulance flight when the accident occurred. The airline transport pilot sustained minor injuries and the flight paramedic, and flight nurse were uninjured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the departure airport, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight departed Thomas Madsen Airport (PADU), Unalaska, Alaska (Port of Dutch Harbor), about 0756 destined for Adak, Alaska. According to the pilot, after checking the weather on the Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS), he completed the before takeoff check list, back taxied for a runway 31 departure and initiated the takeoff roll. He said he recalled the winds being reported as 100° at 9 knots. As the airplane accelerated down the runway, he said the airspeed was about 75 knots at midfield and increasing. When the airspeed reached about 90 knots, he applied back pressure to the control yoke to initiate the takeoff and noted a brief positive rate of climb, followed by a sinking sensation. The airspeed rapidly decayed, and the stall warning horn sounded. In an effort to correct for the decaying airspeed, he lowered the nose and immediately noticed the airplane's lights reflecting off the surface of the water. He pulled back on the airplane's control yoke and leveled the wings just before impacting the ocean waters. The pilot stated there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. According to the medical crew, after a preflight briefing that included a brief discussion by the pilot of the planned downwind takeoff, the airplane door was shut, and the airplane taxied for departure. The crewmembers reported that, during the initial takeoff run the airplane acceleration appeared normal; however, the airplane seemed to remain on the runway longer than normal. One of the crewmembers reported that he felt the nose of the airplane lift from the surface of the runway before settling back down, which was followed by a second rotation and a substantial bump. The other crewmember reported that he felt the nose of the airplane lift off the runway, followed by a substantial bump as if the airplane struck something at the end of the runway. Shortly thereafter, the airplane impacted the ocean waters. After the airplane came to rest and began to fill with water, the crew removed the emergency exit, donned life preservers and inflated and deployed the life raft. They then exited the airplane one at a time through the over-the-wing emergency exit into the life raft. After casting off from the damaged and sinking airplane. They notified their communications center via cell phone of the accident and requested assistance. The contract weather observer on duty that witnessed the accident, reported that she first observed the airplane begin its takeoff roll on runway 31 at PADU, and noted that the pilot did not call via a radio for the current airport weather conditions. In an effort to provide the flight crew with current wind conditions, she made her way to the radio; however, by the time she was ready to transmit the airplane was already midfield on its departure roll. She stated that although it was still dark, it appeared that the airplane did not become airborne and exited the end of the runway. Concerned for the well-being of the occupants, she alerted first responders. The life raft was first reached by first responders within about 30 minutes. The closest official weather observation station was PADU Unalaska, Alaska. The local weather observer, call sign Dutch Weather, 0756 observation reported wind from 110° at 16 knots, gusting to 22 knots; 6 statute miles visibility in light rain and mist; overcast clouds at 1,400 ft; temperature 39° F; dew point 36° F; and an altimeter setting of 29.48 inches of mercury. Peak winds reported at time 0740 were 150° at 26 knots and 110° at 30 knots. A PADU 0757 observation reported wind from 110° at 20 knots, gusting to 28 knots; 6 statute miles visibility in light rain and mist; overcast clouds at 1,400 ft; temperature 39° F; dew point 36° F; and an altimeter setting of 29.48 inches of mercury. IFR takeoff minimums and (obstacle) departure procedures only allow for night departures at PADU off of runway 31. The airplane was equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and an underwater beacon. The CVR has been recovered and was sent to the National Transportation Safety Board's Recorders Laboratory for an audition.