National Transportation Safety Board
Aviation Accident Final Report

 

 

Location:

Huntington, WV

Accident Number:

ERA12LA147

Date & Time:

01/16/2012, 0700 EST

Registration:

N839EX

Aircraft:

BOEING DHC-8-102

Aircraft Damage:

Substantial

Defining Event:

Ground handling event

Injuries:

36 None

Flight Conducted Under:

Part 121: Air Carrier - Scheduled

Analysis

According to the captain and the first officer, they were instructed to taxi the airplane to an unspecified deice area to remove frost from the airframe. As they taxied, a ground crewmember stood by the wing to ensure the airplane’s clearance from another airline’s equipment and signaled thumbs up to the flight crew to indicate when they were clear of the equipment. After taxiing a short distance, the flight crew stopped and awaited further instructions from a ramp agent on the radio for positioning the airplane. Unknown to the flight crew, the deicing team misunderstood the thumbs-up signal to mean that deicing could begin. Consequently, they moved into a position behind the airplane’s left wing and in front of the left horizontal tail. The ramp agent working the radio could not see the airplane from the radio location and, believing it was still at the gate, instructed the flight crew to taxi 50 feet and stop for deicing. The flight crew initiated taxiing and almost immediately felt a bump, colliding with the boom arm of the deice truck. They then stopped the airplane. The deice truck was not equipped for radio communication; therefore, the team’s movement and position could not be coordinated with the other ground personnel or flight crew.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The inadequate communication among ground crew personnel, which resulted in the airplane’s collision with a deice truck.

Findings

Personnel issues

Incorrect action performance - Ground crew (Cause)

Environmental issues

Visual communication - Contributed to outcome (Cause)

Factual Information

On January 16, 2012, about 0700 eastern standard time, a Boeing DHC-8-102, N839EX, registered to US Airways Express and operated by Piedmont Airlines as flight 4117, sustained substantial damage to the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator when it collided with a deicing truck while taxiing at Tri-State Airport (HTS), Huntington, West Virginia. The scheduled domestic passenger flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed. The 2 pilots, 1 flight attendant and 33 passengers were not injured. The flight was originating from HTS and was destined for Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina.

According to the Director of Safety for US Airways, HTS had recently changed from deicing on the gate to off-gate deicing. Prior to the airplane leaving the gate, the Captain spoke with the ramp agent, telling him that he would like to taxi out with one engine, and leave the engine in feather while the airport personnel (vendor) conducted the deicing. The ramp agent (1) then walked to the deice vehicle and conveyed the Captain's request, to which the vendor personnel agreed. The ramp agent (1) then went back to the airplane to confirm with the Captain that his plan was acceptable with the vendor. The ramp agent then said that he told the Captain to taxi out in front of Gate 2, but the Captain said he was told to taxi out in a non-specific manner.

After the Captain started the #1 engine, an agent pulled the wheel chocks and then went inside to station operations to man the radio, while another agent marshalled the aircraft out of the Gate 1 parking area.  Because of the proximity of another airline’s piece of equipment, the agent doing the marshalling then stood by the wing to ensure sufficient clearance, and gave thumbs up to the flight crew to signal that they were clear of the equipment.

After the airplane taxied out and was positioned near gate 2, the Captain stopped the airplane and asked the First Officer (FO) to call station operations and clarify where they were to go for the deicing.  The FO spoke with the ramp agent who was working the radio, but the agent could not see the airplane and did not realize the aircraft had left the gate. Assuming that the aircraft was still at the gate, the agent told the crew to taxi 50 feet or so and stop.

Without the flight crew’s knowledge, the vendor’s deicing team misunderstood the agent’s thumbs up signal as the signal that deicing could begin.  Consequently, the deicing team moved into a position behind the left wing and in front of the left horizontal tail when the aircraft first stopped, and started spraying the rear of the aircraft.  Having received guidance from station operations to move 50 feet, the flight crew initiated taxiing and almost immediately felt a bump, then stopped. After seeing the aircraft start to move, the bucket operator yelled to the driver to "back up" and tried to lower the boom, but the aircraft tail had already struck the boom arm.

 

History of Flight

Taxi

Ground handling event (Defining event)

 

 

Pilot Information

Certificate:

Airline Transport

Age:

56, Male

Airplane Rating(s):

Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land

Seat Occupied:

Left

Other Aircraft Rating(s):

None

Restraint Used:

Seatbelt, Shoulder harness

Instrument Rating(s):

Airplane

Second Pilot Present:

Yes

Instructor Rating(s):

None

Toxicology Performed:

No

Medical Certification:

Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations

Last FAA Medical Exam:

08/09/2011

Occupational Pilot:

Yes

Last Flight Review or Equivalent:

 

Flight Time:

20800 hours (Total, all aircraft), 19500 hours (Total, this make and model), 210 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft)

 

 

Co-Pilot Information

Certificate:

Commercial

Age:

40, Male

Airplane Rating(s):

Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land

Seat Occupied:

Right

Other Aircraft Rating(s):

None

Restraint Used:

Seatbelt, Shoulder harness

Instrument Rating(s):

Airplane

Second Pilot Present:

Yes

Instructor Rating(s):

Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane

Toxicology Performed:

No

Medical Certification:

Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations

Last FAA Medical Exam:

02/11/2011

Occupational Pilot:

Yes

Last Flight Review or Equivalent:

 

Flight Time:

8000 hours (Total, all aircraft)

 

 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make:

BOEING

Registration:

N839EX

Model/Series:

DHC-8-102

Aircraft Category:

Airplane

Year of Manufacture:

 

Amateur Built:

No

Airworthiness Certificate:

Transport

Serial Number:

226

Landing Gear Type:

Retractable - Tricycle

Seats:

36

Date/Type of Last Inspection:

12/11/2011, Continuous Airworthiness

Certified Max Gross Wt.:

32400 lbs

Time Since Last Inspection:

291 Hours

Engines:

2 Turbo Prop

Airframe Total Time:

40609 Hours at time of accident

Engine Manufacturer:

P&W CANADA

ELT:

C91A installed, not activated

Engine Model/Series:

PW120

Registered Owner:

US AIRWAYS INC

Rated Power:

1800 hp

Operator:

Piedmont Airlines Incorporated

Operating Certificate(s) Held:

Commuter Air Carrier (135)

Operator Does Business As:

Piedmont Airlines Incorportated

Operator Designator Code:

HNAA

 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:

Visual Conditions

Condition of Light:

Dawn

Observation Facility, Elevation:

HTS, 828 ft msl

Distance from Accident Site:

0 Nautical Miles

Observation Time:

0651 EST

Direction from Accident Site:

Lowest Cloud Condition:

Clear

Visibility

10 Miles

Lowest Ceiling:

None

Visibility (RVR):

 

Wind Speed/Gusts:

3 knots /

Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:

/

Wind Direction:

180°

Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:

/

Altimeter Setting:

30.28 inches Hg

Temperature/Dew Point:

4°C / 7°C

Precipitation and Obscuration:

No Obscuration; No Precipitation

Departure Point:

Huntington, WV (HTS)

Type of Flight Plan Filed:

IFR

Destination:

Charlotte, NC (CLT)

Type of Clearance:

IFR

Departure Time:

0700 EST

Type of Airspace:

 

 

Airport Information

Airport:

Tri-State Airport (HTS)

Runway Surface Type:

 

Airport Elevation:

828 ft

Runway Surface Condition:

 

Runway Used:

N/A

IFR Approach:

None

Runway Length/Width:

 

VFR Approach/Landing:

None

 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries:

3 None

Aircraft Damage:

Substantial

Passenger Injuries:

33 None

Aircraft Fire:

None

Ground Injuries:

N/A

Aircraft Explosion:

None

Total Injuries:

36 None

Latitude, Longitude:

38.366944, -82.558611 (est)

 


 


Administrative Information

Investigator In Charge (IIC):

Eric Alleyne

Report Date:

09/05/2013

Additional Participating Persons:

Brian E Givens; FAA/FSDO; Charleston, WV

Publish Date:

09/05/2013

Investigation Docket:

http://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms/search/dockList.cfm?mKey=82696