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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 8689
Last updated: 18 September 2019
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Type:Silhouette image of generic C402 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Cessna 401
Owner/operator:Schepps Grocer
Registration: N4004Q
C/n / msn: 401-0104
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Aircraft missing
Location:Austin, TX -   United States of America
Phase: Unknown
Departure airport:
Destination airport:
Pilot had no solo time in type acft. Un comp 2 prev apchs. Aircraft hit house.
I was the Air Traffic Controller who was working "Local" in the control tower at Austin Robert Mueller when N40004Q attempted its first approach. We did not have brite radar in the tower, and with the low ceiling it was impossible for me to see the airplane. N40004Q had been cleared for an ILS approach to 12R. Some time after handing N40004Q off to me, the approach controller, Perry B., who was physically located at Bergstrom Air Force Base, told me that N4004Q was way off course and that I should send the plane back to him. I handed N40004Q back to Austin Approach.

It was near the top of the hour, and it was time for us to rotate positions in the tower. I moved from Local to Ground Control, where I signed on with another controller who was not yet checked out on the Ground Control Position. The only Full Performance Level Controller in the Control Tower (someone who was checked out on all positions at Austin Tower and Austin Approach), a fellow who went by the nickname Flaky, signed onto Local (aka the Austin Tower position), and a former P3 pilot, who was checked out on Flight Data and Ground, but not Local, signed on to the flight data position.

There was little traffic that morning, so all four of us were paying attention as Perry B. this time brought N40004Q around for a surveillance approach to Runway 12R. We weren't monitoring Approach Control frequency -- we didn't have that capability -- but Perry B. was keeping us informed of the plane's position and situation.

The former P3 pilot and I compared notes afterwards, and we both saw N40004Q break out of the clouds, about 400 feet above the ground, aligned with runway 12R, and in a position from which a normal landing should have been possible. N40004Q was on Approach Control frequency, and Flaky had given the landing clearance earlier to Perry B. who would have passed on the clearance to the pilot.

To all appearances, it looked like N40004Q would soon be safely on the ground.

But then, when less than a mile, or mile and a half out, N40004Q made a deliberate turn to the left. It looked like he was entering a base leg for 16R. It was as though he couldn't see the much longer 12R which was right in front of him, or maybe he thought he was supposed to land on 16R.

Again, N40004Q was NOT on any frequency that we could monitor in the control tower, so I don't know what Perry B. in approach control might have said to the pilot, but with N40004Q on what was now a close-in base leg for 16R, at a point where the pilot could have begun a gentle right turn towards final on 16R (and at this point, we didn't care what runway he landed on; we just wanted him to land), the plane made a violent turn as though the pilot was going to try to correct back to 12R. The plane was much too close to the airport for a maneuver like this to work, and though the turn started to the right, the plane seemed to pitch up slightly, roll quickly to the left, past 90 degrees, perhaps as much as 135 degrees. The nose was pointed straight down when the airplane disappeared below trees. A large fireball, followed by a small mushroom cloud, appeared between the Tower and Joske's Department Store which was visible to the Northwest.

The former P3 pilot and I went to the crash site after we finished our shift (either 2 or 3 PM local time) and we saw that the propellers were screwed vertically into the front yard of a small house. We could identify chunks of metal that were probably the engines, but most of the fuselage had been consumed (as in evaporated) by the fire.

At the time of the accident, I was a Commercial Pilot with Single, Multi-engine, and Instrument ratings. Within a few years, I would also earn Flight Instructor ratings for Single and Multi-engine aircraft. The former P3 pilot and I wrote our initial accident reports with the comment that the aircraft had stalled and spun into the ground. Because we were supposed to



Gary Kerr

Revision history:

25-Feb-2008 12:00 ASN archive Added
17-Oct-2009 00:15 GaryKerr Updated

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