RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary incident report regarding a plane’s emergency landing and a co-pilot’s fatal fall mid-flight in North Carolina last month.
In late July, a small aircraft made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) after losing its main wheel. Officials later found the body of Charles Hew Crooks and released 911 calls revealing that he may have jumped from the aircraft.
Before the incident, the pilot-in-command (PIC) — whose name has not been released — said that the plane flew two skydiving runs, then descended to the Raeford West Airport to pick up a third group of skydivers.
According to the report, Crooks was flying into Raeford when the plane descended below the tree line and “dropped.” Crooks attempted to maneuver the plane, but, before he could stop the sink rate and initiate a climb, the right main landing gear hit the surface of the runway.
The PIC said he then instructed Crooks to declare an emergency and request a diversion to RDU. While flying to RDU, the PIC flew the plane and Crooks communicated with air traffic control.
Shortly after the plane diverted to RDU, Crooks “became visibly upset about the hard landing,” the report said.
In his final transmission to air traffic control, Crooks acknowledged the path the plane was heading.
The newly released NTSB report said Crooks then opened the cockpit window because he “may have gotten sick” and felt like he needed air. The PIC explained there was also some turbulence during the flight.
Crooks then reportedly lowered the ramp in the back of the airplane.
The report said Crooks “got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized, and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door.”
There was a bar about six feet above the ramp, but the pilot said he did not see Crooks grab it before exiting the plane.
About a minute-and-a-half after Crooks told air traffic control where the plane was heading, the PIC told air traffic control that Crooks exited the plane without a parachute.
The plane then made an emergency landing at RDU and was retained for further examination. The pilot was taken to the hospital, where officials said he was okay.
The full report can be read below.
Shortly after the plane landed, local emergency units began searching for Crooks. Authorities were flagged down by someone who heard a noise in their yard. Crooks was then found dead in the Sonoma Springs Neighborhood, roughly 30 miles south of RDU.
Crooks’ father Hew told WFXR’s sister station, WNCN, that his son was “very serious” and an experienced, professional commercial pilot. Crooks was also a flight instructor for a company based at RDU.