A single-engine turboprop plane crashed while landing last Sunday in Butte, Montana, killing all seventeen on board the aircraft. According to reports, the aircraft departed Oroville, California, bound for a ski vacation in Bozeman, Montana. The aircraft, which was designed to carry 10 passengers, was carrying 7 adults and 7 children at the time of the crash. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus reports that the aircraft crashed into a cemetery about 500 feet from the airport in Butte while attempting to land. Authorities do not know the reason why the flight was diverted from Bozeman to Butte. The aircraft, a Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turbo prop, was reportedly manufactured in 2001 and registered to Eagle Cap Leasing Inc. in Enterprise Oregon.
Both overloading and icing have been speculated the cause of the plane crash. Overloading is a possible cause as the aircraft, which was licensed to carry ten, held fourteen passengers. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the total weight of fuel, passengers, and luggage on board the aircraft. The weather conditions at the time of the crash were indicative of those that may cause icing. Former NTSB chairman Jim Hall compared the crash to a 2005 disaster near Bellefonte, Pa., which also involved a Pilatus PC-12. In both instances, the weather conditions were conductive to icing at lower elevations. Turboprop planes, such as the Pilatus PC-12, rely on deicing boots to de-ice wings. These boots, which are strips of rubber-like material on the leading edge of the wings and the horizontal part of the tail, inflate and contract to break up ice on the wings. According to the NTSB, a key to the investigation of the accident will be whether the pilot changed the position of the aircraft’s wing flaps for landing as this often causes icing problems. The fatal plane crash closely follows the Buffalo plane crash last month which killed fifty. Icing has also been speculated to have caused that crash.