I was sitting in my aircraft at the approach end of the runway at San Carlos, waiting to be issued an instrument clearance. A Beech BE65 Queen Air taxied down to the runway and took off ahead of me. Sadly, it crashed 30 seconds later into a lagoon north of the airport, killing the three aboard.
Some questions raised in the various news accounts:
Why was the aircraft headed north on the “Bay Meadows” departure, when its ultimate destination was to the south?
I heard the pilot – or whomever was handling the radios — tell the ground controller that he was going to fly along the ridge line west of the airport and then to South County airport. The
controller then asked, “Are you familiar with the Bay Meadows departure?” The pilot responded along the lines of, “I know the Bay Meadows departure; I’ll do that.”
It’s true that the Bay Meadows departure was the long way around. The Woodside departure would have been more direct. But the planned flight was a short hop. The Bay Meadows departure would have worked just fine. The routing was not unusual.
When did the engine problems start?
Some witnesses at the Sky Kitchen restaurant say the engines didn’t sound right when the aircraft passed them. The Sky Kitchen is on the departure end of the runway. (See image.) From my vantage point at the approach end of the runway, the engines looked fine. I didn’t see any smoke, and I didn’t see any unusual vibration as the aircraft throttled up. The engines sounded fine too. That means the problem may have developed well down the runway, after it was too late to abort.
Did the pilot report a problem?
I heard no distress call or, for that matter, anything further from Mr. Borrmann’s aircraft after the pilot acknowledged his takeoff clearance and throttled up.
What caused the crash?
The engine noise the witnesses heard, followed by a bank to the right and dive into the water, is consistent with the failure of the right engine or propeller. (More on this below.)
Could the pilot have had a double engine failure?
Unlikely. Double engine failures are very rare and witnesses heard at least one engine operating just before the crash.
This aircraft had two engines. Isn’t that so it wouldn’t crash if one failed?
A second engine can save the day if one engine fails in cruise flight. But if it quits during takeoff, it’s an entirely different matter. When an aircraft’s landing gear is down, its flaps set, and its airspeed just above the minimum required to stay in the air, the asymetric thrust generated by the operating engine can easily flip the aircraft onto its back and out of control. A "Vmc roll," as it is called, is almost always fatal.
More on this subject here, in a post regarding the Tesla plane crash.
What happens to the wreck now?
The press has reported that it will be taken to the NTSB’s warehouse in Sacramento. In fact, the NTSB has no warehouse. The wreck is most likely headed to a privately owned salvage yard called Plain Parts.
How long will the NTSB’s report take?
Preparation of the report usually takes from 18 months to four years — not the six to nine months reported by the press.