NTSB: Pilot error caused 2013 Era crash in Homer

Pilot error caused the Oct. 23, 2013, crash of an Era Aviation Beechcraft 1900 C/C at the Homer Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report approved in September. 

The two-engine plane slid on its belly from the east end of the runway to near the terminal after the landing gear collapsed. All 13 passengers and the two crewmembers walked away from the crash. Three passengers are now alleging injuries. The plane was flying to Homer from Anchorage.

In the probable cause report approved Sept. 2, the NTSB said the crash happened at about 3:30 p.m. when the first officer, a 58-year-old man, raised the landing gear. Inspection of the Beechcraft controls after the crash showed the landing gear selector handle located on the captain’s side of the console was in the up position.

“After touchdown on the runway, the first officer selected the landing gear handle up,” the NTSB said in its report.

In a brief of the report, the NTSB also said the first officer told investigators that “after touchdown on the runway, while intending to retract the flaps, he inadvertently selected the landing gear handle up.”

Era Aviation is now known as Ravn Alaska. Michael Wien, vice-president of marketing, sales and public relations for Ravn, said Ravn has been working with the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration to address safety concerns raised by the Homer crash and other recent crashes involving Ravn and its parent companies, Corvus Aviation and HotH Inc.

“The accident was unfortunate. We support the NTSB,” Wien said. “We’re moving forward with safety as our number-one priority.”

Two lawsuits have been filed against Ravn Alaska and its parent companies claiming injury to three passengers, David Martishev and Anatoli Martishev in one suit and Sharon Carrico in another suit. 

Joe Kashi, the lawyer representing Carrico, said it’s possible the lawsuits could be consolidated.

Wien said he could not comment on the lawsuits. 

The NTSB in its report said “there were no injuries to the 13 passengers or two crewmembers.” Carrico alleges she was injured and suffered emotional distress. She seeks compensatory damages in excess of $100,000.

After the crash in October 2013, one passenger, Shelley Gill of Homer, told the Homer News that the plane weaved back and forth on its belly “like a drunk driver.” 

Gill praised the pilot for keeping the plane steady.

“You just wait for that wing tip to drop down when you’re skidding 100 mph on your belly and you’re done,” Gill said in 2013. “It didn’t happen. I don’t know if it was something she (the pilot) did, but if it was something she did, she ought to get a medal.”

The crash shredded the tips of the two carbon-composite props. The NTSB report said the crash caused substantial damage to the lower fuselage skin, stringers and frames.

The report does not name the captain , also known as the pilot, or first officer, also known as the co-pilot, only identifying the captain as a 34-year-old person with 7,609 hours of flight time, including 739 hours in the Beech 1900, and the first officer as a 58-year-old man with 2,337 hours of flight time, with 383 in the Beech 1900. 

The report does not identify the sex of the captain, but passengers said the pilot was a woman.

“We never release names of folks involved in transportation accidents,” said Eric Weiss, an NTSB spokesperson at the Washington, D.C., office.

Because the crash involved a commercial airline, the crash was investigated by the D.C. office.

Wien of Ravn Alaska said he did not know if the pilots involved were still working for Ravn.

According to the report, the Beechcraft 1900 has a landing gear safety switch. When the right main landing gear strut is compressed it prevents “the landing gear handle from being raised when the airplane is on the ground,” the report said. The safety switch automatically disengages when the airplane is not on the ground. It also can be manually overridden by pressing a release button, the report said. 

NTSB investigators inspected the landing gear and the control safety switch and found nothing wrong with the equipment.

The report said that the landing gear had been lowered and the flaps selected to landing as the plane was on its final approach before landing. 

What’s not clear in the report is how the first officer was able to raise the landing gear if it had been lowered and the airplane touched down on the runway. That should engage the safety switch, also called a “squat” switch.

After the crash, Gill, the passenger, told the Homer News she felt the landing gear roll for a few seconds and then one wheel collapse and then another.

The NTSB report describes the safety switch as opening “the control circuit when the landing gear strut is compressed to prevent the landing gear handle from being raised when the airplane is on the ground.” The safety switch automatically disengages when the airplane is not on the ground and in flight.

Greg Stoddard, chief flight instructor for the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Aviation Technology Program, said that it’s possible “not enough of the weight of the airplane was on the ground in order to open that circuit where that action (attempting to raise the landing gear) would have resulted in anything.”

Stoddard emphasized that he had not read the NTSB report and was basing his speculation on a description of the report.

The Aviation Technology Program had a similar situation where a Cessna 172 crashed when the pilot intended to raise the flaps and instead raised the landing gear, Stoddard said. 

The program addressed that situation by setting a policy that in its planes flaps would not be adjusted while operating landing gear controls. 

“A learning lesson to come out of this is you can’t trust a safety mechanism to work all the time,” Stoddard said.

Carrico’s lawsuit also alleges that Era/Corvus failed in general to properly screen, evaluate, train and select pilots and that it crewed the flight with pilots who did not know how to perform proper landing procedures.

Wien said Ravn has been in full cooperation with the FAA to address safety issues, including onsite visits and inviting FAA officials to Ravn meetings.

“Procedures have been put in place. We’ve worked with the FAA and cooperate with the NTSB, do everything we can to work with procedures, work with that aircraft manufacturer, and going above and beyond what is required to make sure this incident never happens again,” he said. 

“We’re very committed to the Homer community. We appreciate their support. We take the transportation of flying residents and visitors and business people from Anchorage to Homer very seriously.”

During World War II, B-17 bomber pilots had a similar problem when they would raise the landing gear and not the flaps. 

According to “The Adolescence of Engineering Psychology,” by Stanley N. Roscoe, an Army psychologist, Lt. Alphonse Chapanis, addressed the problem by having mechanics put a rubber-tired wheel on the landing gear control and a wedge-shaped end to the flap controls.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

More in News

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson star is Illuminated on the side of Mount Gordon Lyon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, just east of Anchorage, Alaska, in observation of the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. A crew from the base went to light the 300-foot wide holiday star, but found that only half of the star’s 350 or so lights were working, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Airmen from the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron Electrical Shop haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong and repair the lights, but they plan to work through the week, if necessary, base spokesperson Erin Eaton said. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Avalanche delays holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city

ANCHORAGE — A holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city for more than… Continue reading

AP Photo/Gregory Bull,File
In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, photo, George Chakuchin, left, and Mick Chakuchin look out over the Bering Sea near Toksook Bay, Alaska. A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12 million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion.
Federal grant will connect all 4 Nelson Island communities

BETHEL — A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to… Continue reading

Most Read