MU-2's maker calls for added training
After four fatal crashes of
Mitsubishi MU-2 aircraft this year, including one near Centennial
Airport nine days ago, the manufacturer is worried that some pilots
may be inadequately trained to fly the high-performance plane.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
America recommends that pilots of its planes get specialized training
in flight simulators so they can test emergency conditions and
procedures in a safe environment, said Ralph Sorrells, deputy general
manager of the company's aircraft product support division.
In the wake of this year's
series of accidents, Sorrells said his company is "deeply concerned,
and we're in the process of trying to get the word out" about the best
training practices for MU-2 aviators.
Mitsubishi is holding
pilot-training seminars throughout the country and encouraging federal
officials to upgrade training standards.
Because of the weight of their
aircraft, MU-2 pilots do not need special certification required for
crews on heavier planes, including jets.
But more demanding training is
required for those piloting Mitsubishi aircraft, experts said, because
the planes are significantly different in design and performance from
lighter twin-engine piston planes that many pilots fly before moving
up to the turboprop.
Mitsubishi is working with the
Federal Aviation Administration on a possible national upgrade of
training for pilots who fly more sophisticated twin-engine turboprops
such as the MU-2, Sorrells said.
"An FAA-endorsed program would
help," he said.
Since 1968 there have been 181
accidents involving MU-2 aircraft, including 74 that involved
fatalities, according to a review of National Transportation Safety
Board records. At least 238 people have died in MU-2 crashes.
Mitsubishi stopped making the
planes in the mid-1980s; there are about 420 of them left.
A spate of accidents in the
1970s saddled MU-2 aircraft with a reputation as a dangerous plane,
leading some pilots to shy away from flying them.
The planes will carry that
reputation "for the rest of their life," said Todd McCredie, treasurer
of the Piper-McCredie Insurance Agency in Flint, Mich., a national
leader in insuring MU-2 series planes.
"Safety on this airplane is
strictly in the training," said McCredie, 35.
MU-2 planes are a workhorse of
the twin-turboprop sector of corporate aviation, with many used now
for hauling canceled checks and other freight items for banks and
The plane that crashed near
Centennial Airport on Dec. 10 was operated by Flight Line Inc. and was
hauling checks for Vectra Bank.
The crash killed pilots Paul
Krysiak and James Presba. Krysiak, 28, of Aurora was the
pilot-in-command of the MU-2B-60 and had accumulated at least 325
total hours flying Mitsubishi planes. Krysiak had 3,000 total hours on
Presba, 25, of Lone Tree was in
the cockpit as a pilot-observer and was not being trained to fly the
plane, said Aaron Sauer, the NTSB's lead investigator on the accident.
Neither Sauer nor Mitsubishi's
Sorrells would say whether Krysiak had undergone flight-simulator
training or any other advanced instruction in MU-2 aircraft, but
industry observers say some freight- hauling companies often do not
spend the money on such advanced training.
Critics and even many strong
supporters of MU-2 aircraft agree the planes have unique aerodynamic
and handling qualities that require an extra level of pilot
Losing power in an engine
shortly after takeoff, which apparently happened to the plane that
crashed near Centennial Airport, presents unusual challenges to any
MU-2 pilot because of the aircraft's special aerodynamic
characteristics, said John "Rusty" Allman, a Texas lawyer whose firm
has represented the heirs of those killed in crashes of Mitsubishi
The high MU-2 accident rate led
government officials to perform a certification review of Mitsubishi
aircraft about 20 years ago, according to a history of the planes
published by Howell Enterprises.
"The FAA found that the MU-2
does comply with the regulations," according to Howell. "Nothing was
found in flight testing, accident analysis or examination of systems
and structure that was outside the rules or would lead to accidents."
Barbara Hudson of the Denver
Post research library contributed to this report.
To read this
article as published by the Salt Lake Tribune