The National Transportation Safety Board has released its first report on the Gulfstream IV jet crash that killed Lewis Katz and six others on May 31st. From the first, brief report on the crash, we can infer that pilot error may have contributed to the crash.
“Review of FDR [flight data recorder] data parameters associated with the flight control surface positions did not reveal any movement consistent with a flight control check prior to the commencement of the takeoff roll,” the reports said. “The flap handle in the cockpit was observed in the 10 degree detent. FDR data indicated a flap setting of 20 degrees during the takeoff attempt.”
“Right now, it looks like crew failure to complete the checklist,” retired NTSB investigator Al Yurman told the Inquirer.
According to the NTSB report: “The FDR data revealed the elevator control surface position during the taxi and takeoff was consistent with its position if the gust lock was engaged. The gust lock handle, located on the right side of the control pedestal, was found in the forward (OFF) position, and the elevator gust lock latch was found not engaged.”
In other words, the plane’s elevators, which are flaps that control a plane’s altitude, appear to have been found in locked position despite the lock control being found disengaged.
The May 31st crash killed Katz, a businessman and philanthropist who had just purchased part of the Inquirer, and three friends: Susan Asbell, Marcella Dalsey, and Anne Leeds. All three members of the flight crew (pilot James McDowell, copilot Bauke De Vries and flight attendant Teresa Ann Bernhoff) were also killed. The plane crashed, striking approach lighting and an antenna assembly. Much of the rear of the airplane was consumed by fire. A witness said the plane had “little to no altitude gained” on its takeoff attempt.
Officials said the flight recorder captured “comments concerning aircraft control” when the plane was supposed to lift its nose off the ground, but it has not confirmed what the comments were.