NTSB: No Evidence of Bird Strike in Phenom 100 Crash

Twinjet flew dangerously slow on approach.

NTSB Phenom Crash

NTSB Phenom Crash

Courtesy of the NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board says preliminary flight data recorder information downloaded from the Embraer Phenom 100 that crashed into houses while on approach to Montgomery County Airpark in Maryland on Monday shows that the stall warning system sounded continuously for the last 20 seconds of the flight, indicating that the twinjet had slowed dangerously below its target approach airspeed.

A mother and her toddler-aged sons were killed in one of the houses the jet struck when it caught on fire. Three people onboard the Phenom were also killed.

There is no evidence, said NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt at a press conference, that birds were ingested into the engines or struck the jet. On the Unicom frequency other pilots can be heard discussing a large number of birds in the vicinity of the airport just before the crash, but they were apparently on the runway and not in the approach path.

Sumwalt said the Phenom was shooting the GPS approach to Runway 14 after a 57-minute flight from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. At 32 seconds before the crash the airplane was passing through 500 feet with flaps and gear extended for the straight-in approach. At 20 seconds before the end of the recording the Phenom had slowed to just 88 knots and began "large excursions in pitch and roll," according to Sumwalt.

Two seconds later the pilot added power and the engines responded. The Phenom 100 has a stick pusher system that activates at 77 knots, the NTSB noted, adding that pilots are specifically trained on the dangers of low-altitude stalls in the model, as the stick pusher system is "effective and aggressive," requiring as much as 500 feet of altitude for a stall recovery.

The pilot, who was CEO of a North Carolina health care company, was unhurt in another crash at the Gaithersburg, Maryland, airport in 2010 during a failed go-around in a Socata TBM 700 that destroyed the airplane.

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