The National Transportation Safety Board released more than 800 pages from its accident investigation docket that reveal troubling clues about what may have caused last May’s crash of a Gulfstream IV in Bedford, Massachusetts, which killed seven people on board including Philadelphia Inquirer owner Lewis Katz.
The most disquieting information contained in the trove of data centers on ignored preflight checks of the flight controls by the pilots, as well as a potentially crucial warning message that wasn’t heeded.
The Gulfstream crashed into a gully almost 2,000 feet off the end of the runway last May 31 and burst into flames after the pilots discovered the elevator was locked as they reached a speed of 165 knots during the attempted takeoff.
Data from a recorder installed in the airplane showed that in the previous 176 takeoffs, full flight control checks as called for on the GIV’s checklist were carried out only twice and partial checks only 16 times. The pilots on the evening of the accident skipped the flight control check, which might have revealed to them that the gust lock mechanism was still engaged.
Another crucial clue could be a warning message for “rudder limit,” which the pilots briefly discussed just prior to takeoff but then ignored.
NTSB tests show that had the pilots applied reverse thrust and full braking the moment they realized the elevator control was locked, they could have aborted the takeoff with runway to spare.
The data released by the NTSB this week isn’t meant to assign blame or list a cause of the crash, but rather to provide insight into the final moments leading to the tragedy. The Board’s final accident report is due out later this year.
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