Jul 17 2019

Dhumla Crash Report Summary

The Air Safety Administration has closed its investigation into the Dhumla crash that took the life of Flight Officer Aldeny and seriously injured Flight Officer Tedman. The full report weighs in at over 300 pages of technical investigation, witness reports, crew interviews and simulation data. The conclusion reached by all this is that pilot error was the only cause of the accident – this includes both the actions and mind-set of Pilot in Command Aldeny.

The aircraft was planned to make a touch-and-go landing at Kravass General Airport, putting wheels down but not slowing enough to come to a full stop and thus taking to the air again shortly afterwards. The approach went as planned with a reduced throttle to allow the aircraft to slow enough that the landing gear would not be damaged on touchdown. As the plane crossed over the threshold Aldeny cut the throttle and engaged the reverse thrusters before throttling back up to reduce speed and perform a full stop landing. Cockpit voice recordings made clear this was done without informing his co-pilot, who had too little time to react. The aircraft was already going too fast and failed to slow down enough before ramping off the end of the runway and crashing nose-first into the ground off the raised threshold.

The impact was fast enough to seriously damage the cockpit but leave the majority of the plane intact for investigators to examine. They found no mechanical issues that could have contributed to the crash. All engines were operating normally and putting out full thrust. Brakes and wheels were both good. The aircraft did not fail to stop due to any mechanical reason, it simply didn’t have enough room.

Investigators were puzzled by the procedural mixup that clearly caused the crash. The flight data recorder showed that FO Aldeny was properly performing a touch-and-go approach, so why did he suddenly try to attempt a full-stop landing? He was very familiar with KGA, having trained pilots there, and surely knew that the runway was too short to accommodate the Dhumla at the speed it was traveling for its T&G maneuver. It was only after FO Tedman had recovered enough to be interviewed that they began to suspect Aldeny may have been suffering from severe depression that affected his decision-making abilities.

Back in 2018 the KSA suffered the brunt of the Monolith EM field, which left operations shut down for an extended period of time. Aldeny and Tedman were both released from active duty and went back to Kravass and Sheltered Rock, respectively, to train new pilots. During this time Aldeny met a kerbette with which he developed a deep romantic relationship. Ultimately however in early 2019 they had a horrible falling out that left Aldeny devastated. He spoke a lot about it to Tedman, who recounted to investigators that Aldeny had reported problems sleeping and had sought medication. Crew records released by the KSA to the investigation corroborate that Aldeny was treated by doctors at the medical facility on campus multiple times.

Whether or not these drugs, which were prescribed and approved for use by active duty crew, also had an affect is to be determined by a separate medical study. It was clear though after interviewing Aldeny’s ex-girlfriend that he had been hiding far worse symptoms of depression from both his crew mates and the KSA medical staff. Whether he made a snap decision that he was going to stop at Kravass and talk to her some more to try and work things out or whether he rapidly sank into a manic state and thought that was always the plan, it was clear that FO Aldeny was not psychologically fit to fly the mission and all warning signs were either missed or ignored.

In the end, whatever his original intentions, the flight data recorder clearly shows control input from the pilot seat to roll the plane leftwards as it fell towards the ground. The left wing struck first and pivoted the cockpit into the ground with enough lateral force to both crush that entire side of the cockpit and dislodge the co-pilot seat, throwing FO Tedman violently into the control panel – but outside the area of the collapsed cockpit. Aldeny was at the very least able to save Tedman’s life as a straight-on impact would have crushed them both.

Since the aircraft has been cleared of any mechanical or design flaws, C7 Aerospace Division have already decided to proceed with construction of a new plane with several modifications based on flight data from trials performed by the original prototype that was destroyed in the crash. They will continue to develop the aircraft on their own. KSA will be performing a full review of medical procedures and mental health assessments for its crew. We continue to be saddened by Aldeny’s loss, but we must learn from the mistakes that led to his death so that it won’t happen again.