In a follow-up to a story posted on Aug. 3 by RTM, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has provided additional details regarding the death of Charles Hew Crooks, a copilot who jumped from his small aircraft to his death while his damaged plane was en route to attempt an emergency landing.
His copilot safely landed the plane at Raleigh Durham International Airport.
Crooks, 23, was a Bucknell University student and an experienced pilot and flight instructor. His body was recovered in the backyard of a home in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, some 30 miles south of the airport.
Tuesday’s NTSB report noted that earlier that day, the two pilots flew skydiving runs out of Raeford West Airport. On their third descent, with Crooks as the lead pilot, the plane “dropped,” and before Crooks could initiate a climb, the landing gear impacted the runway.
At that point, Crooks’ copilot assumed control of the plane while Crooks declared the need for an emergency landing and requested clearance to divert to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
WRAL reports that the frantic 911 call presents two Federal Aviation Administration employees talking with Crooks’ co-pilot.
An FAA air traffic controller is heard saying: “This is from Raleigh Airport. We have a pilot who was inbound to the field. His co-pilot jumped out of the aircraft.”
[He] “jumped out without the parachute, so he might have impact to the ground,” the air traffic controller added.
Later the air traffic controller notes: “He made impact to the ground and here are the coordinates.”
Noting concern for the copilot attempting to land the plane, an FAA employee said, “I am sure the pilot is going to be shaken up. I have no idea. He literally just said, ‘My pilot just jumped out.’”
The 13-minute recording notes FAA employees desperately trying to figure out what happened to Crooks.
The NTSB released a preliminary report on the tragic happening on Tuesday.
Fox News reports that the surviving pilot told federal investigators that “Crooks became visibly upset about the hard landing” after the plane diverted to Raleigh-Durham for an emergency landing.
The NTSB report notes that Crooks opened his side cockpit window and “may have gotten sick. He then lowered the ramp in the back of the plane, which the pilot thought was done because Crooks “was going to be sick and needed air.”
The report notes that Crooks “got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized, and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door.”
The story is tragic on many counts. Thankfully, Crooks’ copilot was able to successfully execute an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
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