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Saint-Barthélémy crash

On march 24, 2001, the Twin Otter plane was on a 10 minute inter island flight between St. Maarten, Dutch/French Antilles, and, French Antilles, and approached Saint-Barthélémy from the West for a visual approach and landing on runway 10.

While on finals over the “Col de la Tourmente”, the aircraft was seen making a sharp turn to the left. The Twin Otter struck a house on the “Col de la Tourmente” and caught fire. The 17 passengers and 2 crewmembers were killed. A man on the ground was also killed and his wife was injured. A house was destroyed. The victims were French, Belgian, American and Dutch.

The most probable hypothesis is that the pilot would have selected the reverse beta range for the propellers with the intention of losing energy to correct the airspeed, regain the descent path or shorten the landing as much as possible. In fact, the propeller then acts as a powerful brake.

The investigations have established that the accident appears to result from the Captain’s use of the propellers in the reverse beta range, to improve control of his track on short final. A strong thrust asymmetry at the moment when coming out of the reverse beta range would have caused the loss of yaw control, then roll control of the aircraft.

The investigation could not exclude three other hypotheses which can nevertheless be classified as quite unlikely : a loss of control during a go-around, a loss of control due to a stall, a loss of control due to sudden incapacitation of one of the pilots.
The Captain’s lack of recent experience on this airplane type, the undeniable difficulty of conducting an approach to runway 10 at Saint-Barthélemy and the pressure of time during this flight were contributory factors.

The low height at which the loss of control occurred was an aggravating factor.

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