NOTAM? Nonsense!

It’s a sloppy time of year in New Stuyahok, Alaska. Temperatures in the low 40s are melting the snow, but it takes time for 49 inches of the white stuff to become water and drain away. 

Sloppy also means soft for grass and dirt ruways, even if supplemented with gravel.  ”Better use the soft field takeoff procedure for this one,” our Cessna 207 pilot says to himself. “It was pretty messy when I came in to pick up my passengers. When is this going to dry up?”  

It’s a tough time of year for this Part 135 Air Taxi operator. With all of the unpaved strips in Alaska, the flying is awesome, but conditions can and do prevent revenue flights. 

“With 5 passengers, I think I’ll need a lot of the space provided by this 3200-foot runway. I’m going to start at the threshold for maximum usable space.” Good. 

He applies full power and begins his takeoff roll.  At some point he ‘observes’ the runway end markers.’  What exactly does this mean?  When he is done observing, he selects full flaps. In the middle of a takeoff run?  I don’t think that jives with this AOPA Soft Field Takeoff video.  

He gets airborne just before reaching the end markers.  Does that mean his technique worked?  But instead of being on his way, the plane hits the end markers and ends up in the trees. Guess not.  

The pilot and 1 of 5 passengers received minor injuries when Cessna 207 N6274H crashed on April 29, 1982.  Aircraft damage was substantial.  

This story gets more interesting.  Take a look at the NTSB Findings:

  1. Terrain Condition – Soft (Factor)
  2. Judgment – Poor – Pilot In Command (Cause)
  3. Terrain Condition – Snow Covered (Factor)
  4. Unsafe/Hazardous Condition Warning – Issued – Pilot In Command (Cause)
  5. Aborted Takeoff – Not Performed – Pilot In Command (Cause)

Looks pretty standard, right?  Let’s take a closer look at Finding 4.  ”Unsafe/Hazardous Condition Warning – Issued” means NOTAM, but what about does “Pilot In Command” mean here?  Permit me to quote the report.  

“Research revealed that a NOTAM, initiated by the pilot, had been in effect 5 days prior to the accident which closed the runway until conditions improved.”  Emphasis added. 

Yes, conditions were so bad on this runway, the accident pilot took action to close it until things got better.  Then he tried to use it anyway.  My best guess as to why is what I commented on near the top: money is tough to make when you can’t conduct revenue flights.  There were certainly others, but I think that is where the chain of events started. 

Has something on the ground ever driven you to fly when you shouldn’t have?

Read NTSB Brief of Accident for Accident Number ANC82DA038.

Video from the YouTube Channel of Abraham Nogales

Weather data from Weather Underground and