Latest Theories on the Wellstone Crash

Mike Lewis

Shadow Administrator
Staff member
I was listening to the local NPR news up here in Minnesota, and they had a report on the ongoing investigation into the crash of Senator Wellstone.

It is believed that the main theory as to the cause of the crash is that the Eveleth VOR was sending erroneous signals. In subsequent testing by the FAA, they found that a few times, the VOR indicated an aircraft was at the Eveleth airport where in reality, the airport was actually up to two miles away. Since the crash, the Eveleth VOR has been shut down.

The belief is that the pilots were off course due to the malfunctioning VOR, and that they both started looking for the airport, which they believed was right under them. As they were both looking outside, neither was flying the plane, which they believe would account for why the plane crashed at 85 knots.

The news story said that investigators believe that the malfunctioning VOR along with the limited visibility in the weather and the inexperience of the pilots most likely was to blame for the crash.

Of course, the actual FAA findings are still several months away from being released.
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
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and the inexperience of the pilots

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The FAA/NTSB just can not stop themselves from blaming pilots. If it was a problem with the VOR that's on their heads not the pilots.
 

cime_sp

Well-Known Member
And what about the navaid monitoring??? How could this not have set off an alarm at the center or whoever is responsible for monitoring it? Whay not blame them!!!
 

pilot602

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Not all Nav Aids are monitored. And the unmonitored aids can still be used for an IAP. It's one of the very reasons certain airports can't be listed as alternates (the navaid for the IAP into it isn't monitored). This may have been the case with Eveleth VOR.

In any case if I were the family of the pilots/Wellstone I'd be all over the government on this one.

It amazes me that all through training (even private) the FAA drills into our heads "trust the instruments" then when a guy goes and trusts the instruments they still blame it on the pilot saying that his "inexperience" should have allowed him to detect that the VOR wasn't calibrated correctly. Maybe that's tru, maybe it's not but you can't teach people trust the instruments then turn around and fault them for doing just that.
 

Alchemy

Partner, Ally, Friend
I think this illustrates that you should always use GPS to cross reference VOR's on instrument approaches anytime you have both types of equipment available.

I have always been very skeptical of navigation equipment in the light cessnas I fly, but it's probably a little easier to trust your nav equipment in a kingair.

Surely these guys had a GPS on board that they could use to cross check with the VOR. For all I know they may have been doing just that; what would you do if you saw a 2 mile discrepency between the two instruments? I don't mean to second guess the pilots (may they rest in peace) but I'm just wondering what we could learn from this accident.
 

Parabellum

New Member
Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't they flying in freezing rain? Considering that freezing rain causes the greatest rate of structural ice accumulation, I don't know if even the anti-ice equipment on the King Air can handle it (can any King Air pilots here elaborate?). I suppose its possible they were at an altitude higher than where the rain droplets began freezing, but that sounds unlikely if they were on an approach to an airport.

Oh, and considering that this news report came from NPR, I wouldn't jump believing it. They twist everything to suit left-wing thought more than any radio station I know of.
 

sxauer

New Member
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I think this illustrates that you should always use GPS to cross reference VOR's on instrument approaches anytime you have both types of equipment available.

Surely these guys had a GPS on board that they could use to cross check with the VOR. For all I know they may have been doing just that; what would you do if you saw a 2 mile discrepency between the two instruments?

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Hmm...well, from my experience with GPS and VOR navigation, i would have to say that I would be more likely to trust the VOR than the GPS. I think its been said once before on these boards, that pilots tend to love the new high tech stuff, but cling to the old fashioned stuff.
 

pilot602

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NPR is actually very good - just because it's not Rush don't go labelling "left wing."


There were reports of icing in the area but if I recall correctly, the METARs at the time did not indicate freezing rain (I looked 'em up on Ipilot the day the crash happened). In either event two miles off an IAP is really bad ju-ju. The environmental factors surely played a part but had they been where they thought they were things could have very well been very different (or not, we'll never know).
 

flyitup

Well-Known Member
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Hmm...well, from my experience with GPS and VOR navigation, i would have to say that I would be more likely to trust the VOR than the GPS. I think its been said once before on these boards, that pilots tend to love the new high tech stuff, but cling to the old fashioned stuff.


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I think what Alchemy was getting at is to use BOTH forms of equipment if available. I use a handheld GPS to backup my other nav equipment, and I've always found it to be accurate...
 

Alchemy

Partner, Ally, Friend
I would also trust the VOR before I trusted the GPS, but I haven't been using an IFR certified GPS with a current database. If I had that kind of tool at my disposal, as they *probably* did in the Kingair, I'd be more inclined to take note of any discrepency between the VOR and GPS.
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
I'm not sure if you can really say that VOR is more accurate than GPS....the main reason GPS is such a great thing is because it is that much more accurate. If you fly an aircraft that has a GPS system with a current database, it's easy to see that the accuracy is far better than any VOR. If you get a RAIM flag, it's usually only short lived - I've only had one, and it was gone in about 3 seconds. And when you're getting close to the navaid at crunch time(i.e. on an instrument approach, in the clouds, <1000 AGL...), the GPS doesn't get squirrely on you.

P.S. Is NPR really twisting the news to the left? Maybe so...I mean, come on...there's NO corporate sponsorship!! Anybody that does something for the people, and paid for by the people, has got to have a liberal view...what was I thinking!!! Those left wing hippies.....
 

Mike Lewis

Shadow Administrator
Staff member
Well, and the thing about the inexperience of the pilots was that it was determined early on that one of the pilots didn't have the hours nor experience that he claimed to have.

And actually, I was looking for the original story about the pilot, I did find a copy of the article that I heard on the air. It's at http://www.airsafetyonline.com/news/publish/article_72.shtml if anyone is interested.
 

Acadia

Well-Known Member
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Oh, and considering that this news report came from NPR, I wouldn't jump believing it. They twist everything to suit left-wing thought more than any radio station I know of.


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Im hoping that this is a little joke, but if not.... Please explain how NPR's "left-wing" leanings factored into the reporting of an aviation accident?
 
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