HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A business jet flying over New England crashed violently up and then down, fatally injuring a Maryland woman after pilots responding to automatic cockpit alerts turned off a system that helps keep the plane stable to hold, US transportation investigators reported on Friday.
One passenger, Dana Hyde, 55, of Cabin John, Maryland, was taken to a hospital where she died from complications from blunt force trauma. She had served in two presidential administrations.
The National Transportation Safety Board did not come to any conclusions about the root cause of the fatal March 3 accident in its preliminary report, but it did describe a number of things that went wrong before and after the plane went out of control.
Faced with multiple warnings in the Bombardier jet’s cockpit, the pilots followed a checklist and turned off a switch that “trims,” or adjusts, the stabilizer on the plane’s tail, the report said.
The plane’s nose then floated up, subjecting the people inside to forces about four times the force of gravity, and then pointed down before rotating back up before the pilots could regain control, say it in the report.
Pilots told investigators they did not encounter turbulence, as the NTSB said in an initial assessment the day after the incident.
The trim system on the twin-engine Bombardier Challenger 300 was the subject of a Federal Aviation Administration mandate last year requiring pilots to perform additional security checks before flights.
Bombardier did not directly address the content of the report, saying in a statement that it was “studied carefully.” In an earlier statement, the Canadian manufacturer said it stands behind its Challenger 300 jets and their airworthiness.
“We will continue to provide full support and assistance to all authorities as needed,” the company said on Friday.
The two pilots and three passengers traveled from Keene, New Hampshire to Leesburg, Virginia before being diverted to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut.
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 Upon the United States.
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It was unclear whether Hyde was buckled in her seat or pacing in the cabin of the Kansas City, Missouri-based Conexon jet. Her husband and son, as well as the pilot and co-pilot, were not injured in the incident, the report said.
A representative from Conexon, a company specializing in rural internet, declined to comment Friday.
The report says the pilots aborted their first takeoff because no one removed a plastic cover from one of the outer tubes that determine airspeed and they took off with a rudder limiter failure alarm on.
Another warning indicated an autopilot stabilizer trim error. The plane pitched up abruptly when the pilots flipped the stabilizer trim switch from primary to off while going through procedures on a checklist, the report said.
The plane swayed violently up and down and the “stick pusher” activated, the report said, meaning the onboard computer thought the plane was in danger of an aerodynamic stall.
John Cox, a former airline pilot and now safety adviser, said “there are definitely issues” with the pilots’ pre-flight actions, but he said they responded correctly when they followed the trim error response checklist.
The flight crew consisted of two experienced pilots with 5,000 and 8,000 flight hours, respectively, and held the necessary ratings to fly for an airline. But both were relatively new to the aircraft model and received their ratings last October.
The FAA issued its policy on Bombardier Challenger 300 jets last year after several instances where the horizontal stabilizer on the planes caused the plane’s nose to pitch down after the pilot attempted to do so to get the plane to climb.
Dallas-based AP Airlines writer David Koenig contributed to this report.