Fortunately there were no injuries, but it’s not every day that an airliner lands on a road a couple of minutes after taking off. I first wrote about this yesterday, but wanted to take another look at the topic, since air traffic control audio has been released from the incident.
In this post:
Southern Airways Express takes off from Dulles, has emergency
This incident happened on Friday, January 19, 2024, and involves Southern Airways Express flight 246, which was scheduled to operate from Washington Dulles (IAD) to Lancaster (LNS). For those not familiar with Southern Airways Express, the airline operates a fleet turboprop aircraft, with the most common aircraft being the nine-seat Cessna 208 Caravan.
This flight was operated by a roughly 21-year-old Cessna 208 Caravan with the registration code N1983X. The aircraft took off from runway 30 at 12:45PM local time. According to initial data, the aircraft climbed up to 1,100 feet, but then encountered some major issues.
The plane started quickly descending, and ending up landing two minutes after it took off… on Loudoun County Parkway. The fantastic news is that there were no major injuries among the seven people onboard (five passengers and two crew members), though the aircraft has sustained significant damage.
The air traffic control audio from the incident is pretty wild:
Pilot: “Mayday, mayday, 246 on the ground.”
ATC: “246, did you say you’re on the ground?”
Pilot: “On the ground, we just landed.”
ATC: “246, I understand you are on the ground. We are dispatching emergency services to you now.”
Pilot: “246, the runway is across from Wendy’s and ALDI. All passengers and pilots are alive and well, no injuries.”
As you can see, this all happened very quickly. The pilots only reported a mayday once they were already on the ground. That shows how sudden the issue was, because pilots are always taught to first aviate, then navigate, and then communicate.
Let’s see what comes of the investigation
Investigating an aircraft incident takes time, since you want to make sure you get all the facts right. At this point we have a lot more questions than answers.
The first obvious question is why the plane didn’t return to Washington Dulles Airport, given that it was just a couple of miles away. That points to a need to land immediately, which suggests that maybe there were issues with the engine (since the Cessna 208 Caravan has a single engine).
Looking at the above picture, one thing that stands out is that the three engine blades are all significantly bent. I’m not sure if that was because the engine blades collided with the railing upon landing, or if something else happened before then.
Some time back, pilots at Southern Airways Express were sounding the alarm about some bad practices at the airline, both regarding maintenance and how pilots are treated. I of course can’t say that this factored into the accident, though it’s the first thing I think of when I hear about this airline.
For what it’s worth, Southern Airways Express has released the following statement regarding the incident:
“We are relieved to report there were no injuries, and all passengers are safe and sound. We are thankful to our pilots, who did exactly what they were trained to do — to put the safety of our passengers first. We are working closely with the authorities to thoroughly investigate the situation.”
A Southern Airways Express Cessna 208 Caravan took off from Washington Dulles yesterday afternoon, and landed two minutes later on a road just a couple of miles away. Fortunately there were no major injuries, though there was substantial damage to the aircraft.
What do you make of this Southern Airways Express incident?