NTSB Criticizes Gulfstream Over G650 Crash Investigation

NTSB cites missing evidence, noncompliance.

Gulfstream G650

Gulfstream G650

** The Gulfstream G650 at EBACE 2012**

As investigators continue to probe the fatal 2011 crash of a Gulfstream G650 test aircraft, the NTSB recently voiced some harsh words regarding Gulfstream's handling of the investigation.

In a letter dated April 4, 2012, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman outlined a number of offenses committed by the bizjet giant, including information withholding, noncompliance with NTSB regulations, delayed correspondence and "general conduct and dilatory tactics prejudicial to the investigation."

The letter cited “unexplained missing evidence,” including a hard drive containing telemetry data from the ill-fated test flight. Other complaints lodged by Hersman included Gulfstream’s withholding of the results of its own internal safety audit, the “combative and argumentative behavior on the part of Gulfstream’s legal counsel during witness interviews,” and “excessive objections to disclosure of factual information based on claims of protection for proprietary data.”

In a letter dated March 30, 2012, Gulfstream President Larry Flynn struck back against the charges, evidently voiced previously at an earlier meeting between the two parties.

In it he maintained that once it was discovered that the missing telemetry hard drive was not stolen, the employee in charge of its safekeeping was terminated. Flynn also addressed the issue of the company’s internal safety review, stating that Gulfstream allowed the NTSB to conduct an on-site review of the study results.

Flynn argued that Gulfstream has responded to all NTSB information requests “as promptly as possible,” and said that, due to the accident occurring during a test flight, “Gulfstream has provided an enormous amount of trade secret and proprietary information to the NTSB – much more than would be required for an accident involving an in-service model.” Flynn also cited a canceled meeting and delayed correspondence on the NTSB’s end.

While the NTSB has not released its final report on the official cause of the crash, Gulfstream says it thinks it likely occurred due to an unachievable take-off angle as well as a takeoff speed schedule that was not appropriately formed.

According to the NTSB’s preliminary report on the crash, the accident occurred when the G650’s wing hit the runway on rotation, causing the aircraft to burst into flames and killing all four Gulfstream employees aboard. The airplane was attempting to conduct a takeoff with a simulated engine failure to ascertain minimal flap settings for the jet at the time of the crash.

The NTSB is expected to release its final report on the crash investigation later this year.