Weather radar map depicting accident location and weather at time of aircraft crash
Weather radar imagery showed a storm front moving from west to east just before the takeoff of a Beechcraft King Air 200 that crashed on February 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Photo: NTSB)

King Air Crash Occurred as Weather Rapidly Worsened

The pilot and four passengers died.

The commercial pilot of a Beechcraft King Air 200 that crashed during departure from Little Rock (Arkansas) Bill and Hillary Clinton International Airport (KLIT) on February 22 received three weather advisories before takeoff for low-level wind shear (LLWS) and faced rapidly deteriorating weather immediately after departure, according to a newly published NTSB preliminary report. The business-owned and -operated turboprop twin was on an intended Part 91 IFR flight to Columbus, Ohio. The pilot and four passengers were killed in the accident.

At about 11:50 a.m., the pilot requested and received taxi clearance after listening to ATIS ( an automatically updated information broadcast used by pilots), which included an LLWS advisory alert. Approximately two minutes later, the tower controller transmitted another LLWS advisory alert. A few seconds later, the ground controller issued a similar advisory. At 11:55 a.m., the aircraft departed and no other transmissions were received from the pilot.

Video surveillance showed the airplane taking off from Runway 18 and beginning an initial climb to the south. Just as it went out of sight, the camera recorded a rising plume of smoke about one mile south of the departure end of the runway.

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“Shortly after the plume of smoke, the camera appeared to shake from wind and recorded blowing debris and heavy rain on the ramp,” according to the report. “Just before and during takeoff, the camera showed that the ramp was dry with no rain or noticeable wind.”

Airport weather reports corroborate that the camera recording was consistent with changing/deteriorating weather conditions from the time of taxi, takeoff, and accident. Also, weather radar imagery showed a front moving from west to east just before takeoff.

Manifest records of the passengers and equipment, refueling records, and a weight-and-balance sheet provided by the aircraft owner indicate that the airplane was about 300 pounds below its maximum takeoff weight at takeoff.