Jet crashes wildly amid cockpit warnings, 1 dead: NTSB
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – A business jet flying over New England pitched violently up and then down, fatally injuring a passenger after the pilots responded to automatic cockpit warnings, That set off a system that helps keep the plane stable, US transportation investigators said Friday.
The National Transportation Safety Board did not reach a conclusion in its preliminary report on the main cause of the fatal March 3 crash, but it described a series of things that went wrong before and after the plane went out of control.
The report said that with multiple alerts in the cockpit of the Bombardier jet, the pilots followed a checklist and turned off a switch that “trims” or adjusts the stabilizer on the plane’s tail.
The plane’s nose then swung upwards, hitting those inside with a force nearly four times the force of gravity, then pointed down before turning upwards before the pilots regained control, the report said. .
The pilots told investigators that they did not encounter turbulence, as the NTSB said in a preliminary assessment a day after the incident.
The trim system of the Bombardier Challenger 300 twin-engine jet was the subject of a Federal Aviation Administration mandate last year that pilots undergo additional safety checks before flights.
Bombardier did not directly respond to the contents of the report, saying in a statement that it was “carefully studying” it. In a previous statement, the Canadian manufacturer said it stood behind its Challenger 300 jets and their airworthiness.
“We will continue to fully support and provide assistance to all authorities as required,” the company said on Friday.
The two pilots and three passengers were traveling from Keene, New Hampshire, to Leesburg, Virginia, before heading to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. Passenger Dana Hyde, 55, of Cabin John, Maryland, was taken to a hospital where she died of blunt force injuries.
Hyde served in government positions during the Clinton and Obama administrations and was counsel to the 9/11 Commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States.
It was unclear whether Hyde was belted into his seat or up and about in the cabin of the jet owned by Connexon, based in Kansas City, Missouri. Reports said that the pilot and co-pilot along with her husband and their son were not injured in the incident.
A representative for Conexon, a company specializing in rural Internet, declined to comment Friday.
The report indicated that the pilots aborted their initial takeoff because no one removed the plastic cover from one of the outer tubes that determine airspeed, and they took off with a rudder limiter fault alert.
Another warning indicated autopilot stabilizer trim failure. The pilots, while working through the procedures on the checklist, caused the aircraft to suddenly pitch upward, turning the stabilizer trim switch from primary to off, the report said.
The report stated that the aircraft shook up and down violently and that the “stick pusher” activated, meaning the onboard computer thought the aircraft was in danger of an aerodynamic stall.
John Cox, a former airline pilot and now a safety consultant, said there are “definitely issues” with the pilots’ pre-flight actions, but said they followed a checklist when responding to a trim failure. He gave the correct response.
The flight crew consisted of two experienced pilots with between 5,000 and 8,000 hours of flight time, and held the required ratings to fly for an airline. But both were relatively new to the aircraft model, having earned their ratings last October.
The FAA issued its directive last year regarding Bombardier Challenger 300 jets after several instances in which the horizontal stabilizer on the plane caused the plane’s nose to pitch down when the pilot tried to board the plane.
Sharp reported from Portland, Maine. AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.