Ditching a Jet - NTSB Report


Does It Really Matter....?
Staff member
NTSB Identification: SEA03FA147
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, July 22, 2003 in Coupeville, WA
Aircraft: Cessna Citation 525, registration: N996JR
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On July 22, 2003, about 1015 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna Citation 525, N996JR, ditched in the waters of Penn Cove, Coupeville, Washington, following a loss of elevator trim control resulting in an uncommanded nose-low pitch attitude. The commercial pilot and passenger were not injured. The airplane is registered to the Tango Corporation of Minden, Nevada, and was being operated as a cross-country flight under the provisions of Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from the Victoria International Airport (YYJ), Sidney, British Columbia, with a planned destination of Gowen Field (BOI), Boise, Idaho.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) on July 23, the pilot reported that shortly after takeoff, while climbing through 16,000 feet MSL (en route to FL 330) the airplane abruptly nosed over to approximately a forty-degree negative deck angle. He disconnected the autopilot, throttled back to idle, and attempted to re-trim the airplane. He reported that the cockpit trim indicator was in the full forward (nose down) position and that neither the manual nor the electric trim actuators would respond to his inputs.

After numerous configuration changes and unsuccessful attempts to regain full pitch control, the pilot elected to ditch the airplane. He stated that the airplane impacted water in a wings level attitude at approximately 100 knots.

Currently, the airplane is resting in 60 feet of water approximately 300 yards offshore.
OK, someone has to get the ball rolling here.....
First of all, let me just say that I am glad nobody was killed in this little mishap! Secondly, COME ON DUDE! I know that a runaway trim situation is a handfull and a half, but if the pilot had enough control to flare the darned thing over the water and land in such a way so as not to kill himself and his passenger, doesnt it stand to reason that he could have declared an emergency and got vectors to the nearest field? I mean, it was VMC for cryin' out loud. Anyway, like I said, glad to hear that they made it, but its upsetting that a beautiful airplane like a citation had to learn to swim.
Not an attack on you, just we can't second guess why he elected to do what he did. I love how as soon as an accident is posted people start saying, why didn't he do this, why didn't he do that, he could have done this, etc. For all we know, maybe the only way to control the pitch down forces of the runaway trim was to leave throttles at idle and maintain a wings-level attitude will near full-back elevator input. This would leave LITTLE margin for error trying to land on a runway, much less safely. I doubt anyone here knows the handling characteristics of the Citiation in this situation. Maybe due to this, he elected to ditch, instead of flying over residential areas trying to make an airport without knowing if he'll make it or not and not knowing if he'd be able to land it safely. In my opinion, he did the right thing. I'd rather ditch, knowing I have a whole open sea then trying to bring a plane that is barely controllable over residential areas and then putting it down safely on a runway with the threat if you are losing altitude too quickly, you have no way to correct and 'get' the runway back.
Like I said in another post, it's amazing how the armchair quarterbacks come out after an accident. It's good to analyze in the aftermath, but it's only good if you know the facts - in this case, you obviously don't have any. It's also very easy to criticize decision making until you've been in a tight spot yourself - things just aren't that easy. Besides, who in the hell would take a plane with malfunctioning flight controls over land when they could happily put it in the water and swim away?!
Aircraft broken = insurance company's problem. If I destory the aircraft but walk (or swim) away then so be it.

Taking an aircraft with flight control problems over populated area...yeah, not good idea.
ERAU Intern--

I'm sure that you must have experienced many a runaway trim situation in transport category aircraft there at Riddle. Leave the analysis to the professionals at the NTSB. The pilot did a fine job to be able to level the aircraft well enough to ditch it in a nose-level attitude.

A Citation isn't a 172.

Remember the Alaska MD-80 where the jackscrew failed and the pilots had little or no control of the horizontal stabilizer? Remember the outcome? And those were 2 very experienced pilots who did an amazing job of keeping that plane flying as long as they did. The pilot of the Citation did a fine job getting himself and his passenger out alive.

To truly be a professional pilot, do not start out you life by being super-critical of others until you have the experience to back it up.


Remember the Alaska MD-80 where the jackscrew failed and the pilots had little or no control of the horizontal stabilizer? Remember the outcome? And those were 2 very experienced pilots who did an amazing job of keeping that plane flying as long as they did.

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Anyone read the transcript of that one? It's amazing how they worked together and almost got out of it.... quite sad what happened.

And that Citation...WOW! That would be some tough stuff meeting the water at 100kts with marginal controls. Who knows what the pilot did right / wrong... but the fact is they were all uninjured, which says a lot.
I thought Penn Cove rang a bell.

In 1979, I lived a couple of miles from Penn Cove, which is on Whidbey Island. My family often fished from one of the piers. Back then, a small airline used to operate Britten-Norman Islanders from nearby Oak Harbor Airport, which still has a short, narrow, steep runway.