Notable Aircraft Accident Investigations

AvSafe has worked on a number of interesting cases. Two examples of these are the 1998 Marine EA6B gondola accident in Cavalese, Italy and the 1996 ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades.


EA-6B Gondola Mishap, Cavalese, Italy, February 3, 1998

AvSafe worked with the defense team for Captain Richard Ashby, USMC and Captain Joseph Schweitzer, USMC in an effort to reconstruct the mishap which occurred on February 3, 1998 in Cavalese, Italy. Our role as the reconstructionist is to gather all the facts related to the mishap in an effort to find the cause or causes. In doing so we visited the mishap site, interviewed witnesses, examined the mishap aircraft, reviewed mission recorder information, along with countless other tasks. We also identified other experts in essential fields and coordinated the efforts of the expert team. The resultant verdict was in favor of the defense.
EA6B2 "TPC" or Tactical Pilotage Charts as depicted in the adjacent photo are used by aircrew throughout the world both for navigation, terrain and obstacle avoidance. These DOD supplied charts are produced by NIMA (National Imaging and Mapping Agency) with source information provided by the various countries-- such as Italy, in this case. Even though information pertaining to the gondola was supplied to NIMA by the Italian government, the gondola was never depicted on the TPC chart used by the aircrew. In spite of the notable absence of any aerial cable marking, the Marine Corps insisted on stating the cable was marked on the chart. You can see for yourself that it clearly is not marked. 
EA6B5 The EA-6B Prowler struck the gondola support cable (2 inch diameter) and haulage cable (1 inch diameter)with its right wing at the wing fold. Post flight investigation revealed a strike of approximately 40-50 degrees relative to the cable. Damage to the Prowler was severe with both cables cutting the wing to the spar. Also damaged were the ALQ99 jammer pod carried on wing station five and the "football" or antenna fairing on top of the vertical stabilator.


ValuJet Accident, Florida Everglades, May 11, 1996

On May 11, 1996 ValuJet Flight 592, a DC-9, caught fire and crashed into the Florida Everglades near Miami, Florida. All 105 passengers, and five flight crew members perished. Initial efforts to recover the aircraft wreckage were hampered by the swampy terrain. A specially adapted pontoon type vehicle designed to operate in the Everglades environment was used to assist in hauling heavy wreckage. A barge with a backhoe bucket is shown here working the main crater.
VJ3 Airboats were used to transport personnel working in the swamp and to haul smaller pieces to the decontamination stations. A surveyed grid search was conducted with personnel poking through the saw grass mat looking for wreckage. Personnel were suited up in Tyvek suits, double rubber gloved, hip waders and surgical masks while working in 90 degree heat and humidity. Most wreckage was recovered in this manner.
VJ4 Investigation revealed that chemical oxygen generators (shown here) were responsible for the fire in the forward cargo compartment of the DC-9. The fire penetrated the passenger compartment above the cargo compartment.

Wreckage was transported to Tamiami Airport for layout. The forward cargo hold (shown here) was reconstructed using framing, chicken wire, and recovered airframe wreckage. The layout revealed the most intense portion of the fire was on the forward left side of the cargo compartment.