The NTSB this week released the preliminary report into the investigation of a HondaJet HA-420 that overshot a runway on May 18 while trying to land at Summerville Airport (DYB) in South Carolina.
While the pilot and five passengers made it out unscathed, the plane caught fire and was destroyed.
The incident was the 10th runway mishap involving a HondaJet HA-420 in the United States over a 15-month period.
The Summerville aircraft, operating as a Part-91 personal flight, flew IFR from Wilkes County Airport (UKF) in North Carolina, taking off just before 11:30 p.m. on May 17.
The pilot and the passengers were returning to the aircraft’s base at Summerville attending a motorsports event in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, according to the NTSB report.
The pilot told investigators he delayed their departure to let rainstorms pass through the Summerville area and knew he would be landing on a wet runway, a place he had “hundreds of times” on both dry and wet runways, never having an issue with not having enough runway.
The HondaJet is rated with a landing distance of 3,000 feet. Runway 24 at DYB is 5,000 feet long.
The pilot flew the RNAV (GPS) RWY 24 instrument approach into DYB. The pilot coupled to the autopilot for the approach until about 600 feet when he took manual control.
Under calm winds, he flew the approach at 120 knots with full flaps and immediately applied full brake pressure upon touchdown.
“The brakes immediately began to pulsate in anti-skid mode and because of that, very little braking effort was being done to slow the plane despite full pedal pressure,” the pilot told investigators.
“He described the response of the anti-skid system as having a slower on/off cycle than he had experienced on previous wet runway landings, where the system had a more rapid on/off response,” the preliminary report states. “The pilot said that it became apparent about halfway down the runway that he would not make the turn off at the second taxiway. He added that he was not concerned because there was plenty of remaining runway.”
“This plane has always stopped with reserve length remaining even when this runway is wet,” the pilot told investigators, noting that he considered a go-around, but the left brake “grabbed” and the airplane’s nose suddenly yawed to left.
“This began a sequence of left and right skids,” the report states. “The pilot said he used the rudder pedals to keep the airplane on the runway and was able to straighten the nose out right before they went off the runway into the grass.”
The HondaJet slid down several embankments before stopping. It then burst into flames. All six occupants exited safely through the main cabin door.
When investigators arrived the next day, they were able to account for all major components of the plane. The fire consumed the cockpit, center fuselage and the right wing.
There were marks on the runway from the plane’s tires going back 1,550 feet from where the plane left the runway. The marks began to make an S shape along the runway after the intersection with Taxiway C.
The HondaJet hit a runway light as it exited and onto the grass. It then covered about 90% the length of a football field (273 feet) before skidding down a 10-foot embankment and onto a rocky berm, where it slid down another 6-foot drop, before coming to rest 360 feet beyond the departure end of the runway.
“Examination of the airplane revealed that the right wing sustained extensive impact and fire damage, and the flap setting could not be confirmed,” the report states. “The left wing was largely undamaged, except for impact marks along the leading edge from the rocky berm. The left flap was fully extended. The rudder, elevator, (and) vertical and horizontal stabilizer(s) were undamaged. The aft empennage mounted speed brake was in the fully retracted position.”
There was no cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder on the HondaJet, which are not required. The NTSB is hanging onto the damaged plane as it continues to investigate, which a team from Honda Aircraft Company assisting.
Of the nine other incidents involving HondaJets over the 15-month span, at least six involved the planes overshooting the runway, often with contributing weather factors, most often wind. In one case, a pilot said the plane’s brakes locked up before the small jet spun out.
Fallout since the most recent HondaJet incident
Shortly after the Summerville incident, fractional provider Jet It announced it was grounding its HondaJet fleet. Days later, the company went bankrupt. In the fallout, former employees and other companies said Jet It owed them money and often failed to pay bills on time.
After Jet It’s move to ground its HondaJet fleet, Honda Aircraft said in a statement to GlobalAir.com that there has been no move by any governmental agency to ground the planes.
“In all closed investigations of previous runway events, investigators found no causal factors from the aircraft’s design or any system malfunction,” the company statement continued. “Our engineering and analysis (support) our product as a safe aircraft to operate.”
Julie Hughes, executive director of the HondaJet Owners and Pilots Association (HJOPA), posted a video on the association’s YouTube channel late last month addressing the incident, as the association calls for a safety standdown that does not call for grounding the aircraft.
“All of you are experienced pilots, and while you have your own ideas involving each of these events, it’s critical that we do not jump to conclusions or reach unfounded assumptions,” she said. “Instead, we are allowing the data to inform us about this concerning trend on our platform. This data-driven approach will guide us in taking appropriate actions to enhance the safety of each of our operations.”
A voluntary safety standdown “will provide the opportunity for our members to actively participate and contribute to the collective understanding of these incidents and accidents,” she said. “I urge each one of you to actively participate in the safety standdown when it is announced and carefully consider the targeted training measures that will be made available.”
You can learn more about the other incidents, the fallout regarding Jet It and the HJOPA statement in the previous articles linked above.