FAA investigators found thick ice on plane after deadly crash in Lubbock

FAA investigators found thick ice on plane after deadly crash in Lubbock
Two of the ice chunks found on scene (Source: NTSB Preliminary Report)

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A preliminary report into the deadly plane crash that happened on Oct. 26, 2020 in Lubbock says thick ice on the plane is believed to have played a part in the crash.

One killed in plane crash on 38th and Ave. A
One killed in plane crash on 38th and Ave. A (Source: Viewer photo)

The crash happened just before 4 p.m. in a residential neighborhood at 37th and Avenue A., which is about six miles south of the Lubbock airport.

The pilot, 69-year-old Donald Eakin of Hallsville, Texas, was piloting a single engine Cessna Centurion in icy conditions when the plane went down. He was the only person on board.

When the plane crashed, it caught on fire. No other injuries were reported and no structures were damaged, aside from a fence.

Initial reports from the FAA state a single-engine Cessna Centurion crashed while on approach to Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport after departing from Belen, New Mexico. The flight plan was from Belen Regional Airport (BRG), Belen, New Mexico, to Corsicana Municipal Airport (CRS), Corsicana, Texas, but had diverted to Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB), Lubbock, Texas.

When FAA Inspectors arrived on the scene, they discovered the fire that started after the crash consumed most of the fuselage and the inboard sections of each wing.

Two of the ice chunks found on scene
Two of the ice chunks found on scene (Source: NTSB Preliminary Report)

The inspectors found numerous chunks of ice in the wreckage near the wings, and pieces still attached to some of the airplane’s leading edge surfaces. The ice chunks were concave shaped and featured a smooth surface on the inside of the curve. The ice ranged from 1 to 2 inches thick.

The preliminary report also details the flight track and the communication with the pilot.

A review of the air traffic control recordings and ADS-B data revealed the airplane was in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) during the descent toward LBB and the pilot reported that he had been in IMC “for quite a while.” The pilot was instructed to setup for the RNAV (GPS) Y instrument approach to runway 35L. During the approach the pilot was unsure of the instrument approach to expect and was not in position to intercept the final approach course, so the controller vectored him to the east to setup for the same approach with a different initial approach fix (IAF).

Accident flight track with approach fixes and accident site labeled.
Accident flight track with approach fixes and accident site labeled. (Source: NTSB Preliminary Report)

When queried by the controller, the pilot reported that he was experiencing structural icing and was in “freezing rain.” After the airplane crossed the intermediate fix, ZOVOC, and turned inbound, the groundspeed (gs) gradually decreased from about 80 kts to about 50 kts. After crossing the final approach fix, UFACI, about 4,700 ft mean sea level (msl) and 48 kts gs, the airplane made a left turn toward south-southeast and descended. The pilot reported to the controller that the airplane experienced an autopilot issue, so the controller provided new vectors to the pilot. The flight track showed that the airplane continued to descend, then made a sharp left turn before the data ended. The controller reported that radar contact was lost and there were no further communications from the pilot.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. The NTSB is in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates. The NTSB did not travel to the scene of this accident.

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