On July 29th, a CASA C-212-200 airplane made a rough emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) after a failed landing attempt at nearby Raeford West Airport (NR20).
The pilot in command (PIC) was on the plane when it touched down. Not on the plane was the second in command (SIC), 23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks, who early news reports described as either “falling” or “jumping” out of the plane without a parachute sometime after it was diverted to RDU after the initial botched landing at NR20 was said to have damaged the plane’s landing gear.
According to the two Raleigh tower air traffic controllers who called 911 at the time, the pilot who eventually landed the plane told them en route to RDU that his copilot had jumped out:
” This is Raleigh Airport. The pilot was coming from Raleigh Airport. “His copilot leapt out of the plane,” an FAA employee said before revealing the coordinates where it occurred.
” So, they claimed he jumped from the plane,” said the employee. His copilot leapt out of the aircraft without a parachute so it is possible that he may have hit the ground .”
A different FAA employee takes over the phone and says “Yeah. I know.” Yes, but I’m not sure. It’s the most crazy thing I have ever seen.
” I mean, this pilot will be shaken up. It’s not something I know. The employee said that he just stated, “My pilot just leapt out.” It is not known who the FAA employees were.
The NTSB published their preliminary report (PDF ) on Tuesday. This was heavily based upon information provided by pilots and other recorded communications.
According to the report, the unidentified pilot said that 20 minutes into the flight to RDU, Crooks “became visibly upset about the hard landing” at NR20. The NTSB also noted
En route to RDU the crew worked with operations and air traffic control and coordinated their approach and landing. The SIC was responsible for communication with air traffic controllers while the PIC piloted the plane. The PIC reported that there was moderate turbulence during the flight, and that about 20 minutes into the diversion to RDU, after conducting approach and emergency briefings, the SIC became visibly upset about the hard landing. The Federal Aviation Administration reviewed preliminary radio communications information regarding air traffic control. It was found that the SIC had communicated with air traffic controllers up until that time.
In his last transmission, the SIC acknowledged a direction from air traffic controllers.
The PIC stated that the SIC had opened the cockpit side window and that he felt sick. The PIC then took control of radio communications and the SIC lowered a ramp at the back. According to the PIC, the SIC got out of his chair, took off his headset and apologized. He then exited the plane via the aft ramp.
The PIC said that there was a place where one could grab a bar about six feet above the ramp. However, he didn’t see the SIC grab it before he left the plane. To search for the SIC, the PIC turned the aircraft to the right. The PIC informed air traffic controllers by radio that his copilot had left the plane without a parachute. This was approximately 1 1/2 minutes after the SIC radio acknowledged the course heading.
Did he leap or fall? Or was there something else going on? Although the preliminary report notes that it may change at any time, there are no conclusions.
But based on what his family and friends said about Crooks it doesn’t make any sense why he would kill himself over an unfortunate landing. He was as committed a pilot that those closest to him believed he was.
Devin Lynch was a friend of Crooks’ for three years and told WRAL just a few days later that he wanted to hear what was recorded on the cockpit voice recording between the pilots, other than what was sent to the ATC:
” I would like to listen to the CVR recordings because it’s important to me to know what’s going on inside the cockpit. It wasn’t being reported to air traffic control,” Lynch said.
Lynch stated that he has known Crooks for a few years and it felt out of character to him jump from an airplane without a parachutist.
” I’ve known Charles for 3 years. From the moment I first met him, he was a pilot. He was a great pilot. I have flown with him several times and can confirm that. “He followed all rules to the letter,” said he.
I’d love to hear your story, also, considering that there was only about 30 seconds between Crooks last communication with the tower and when Crooks was notified by the PIC that Crooks had apparently jumped. According to NTSB reports, this time frame is approximately one and a quarter minutes.
Crooks was already allowed to open his window per the PIC. So why would he want to let fresh air through the ramp? What is the limit on what pilots can do in flight? This is not a conspiracy theory, but it doesn’t seem to make any sense.