Plane flies wild, kills 1, amid cockpit warnings: NTSB

Hartford, Conn. (AP) – A business jet flying over New England nosedived violently upward, then downward, fatally injuring a passenger, after pilots responding to automatic cockpit warnings disabled a system that helps stabilize the plane, the U.S. Transportation Safety Board said. investigators on Friday.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not reach any conclusions in its preliminary report on the root cause of the deadly March 3 crash, but it described several things that went wrong before and after the plane went out of control.

Faced with several warnings in the Bombardier plane’s cockpit, the pilots followed a checklist and turned off a switch that “corrects” or adjusts the stabilizer on the plane’s tail, the report said.

The plane’s nose pitched up, forcing the people inside to about four times the force of gravity, then pitched down before turning up again before the pilots could regain control, the report said.

The pilots told investigators they did not encounter turbulence, as the NTSB said in an initial assessment the 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 required pilots to undergo additional pre-flight safety checks.

Bombardier did not respond directly to the content of the report, saying it was “carefully studying” it. In a previous statement, the Canadian manufacturer said it supports the Challenger 300 aircraft and their airworthiness.

“We will continue to provide full support and assistance to all authorities as needed,” the company said Friday.

The two pilots and three passengers were traveling from Keene, New Hampshire, to Leesburg, Virginia, before transferring to Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport. One passenger, Dana Hyde, 55, of Cabin John, Maryland, was taken to a hospital where he died of blunt force injuries.

Hyde served in government positions during the Clinton and Obama administrations and was an adviser to the 9/11 Commission, officially known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States.

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It was unclear whether Hyde was strapped into her seat or up in the cabin of the plane owned by Connexon, which is based in Kansas City, Missouri. Her husband and their son, along with the pilot and co-pilot, were not injured in the incident, the report said.

A representative for rural Internet company Conexon declined to comment Friday.

The report said the pilots aborted the initial takeoff because no one removed the plastic covering from one of the outer airspeed tubes, and they took off with a rudder limiter jam warning.

Another warning indicated a malfunction in the autopilot stabilizer trim. The report said the plane suddenly pitched up when the pilots moved the stabilizer switch from primary to off while working on a checklist.

The report said the plane was violently rocking up and down and a “stick row” was activated, meaning the on-board computer thought the plane was in danger of an aerodynamic stall.

John Cox, a former airline pilot and now a safety consultant, said there were “definitely problems” with the pilots’ pre-flight actions, but he said they reacted appropriately when they followed a checklist to respond to a trim failure.

The flight crew consisted of two experienced pilots with 5,000 and 8,000 hours of flight time and held the ratings required by the airline. But both were relatively new to the aircraft model and earned their ratings last October.

The FAA issued its directive on Bombardier Challenger 300 planes last year after multiple incidents where the planes’ horizontal stabilizer caused the plane’s nose to pitch down after the pilot tried to climb the plane.


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Sharp reports from Portland, Maine. AP Airlines writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

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