A former Obama-era official traveling on a corporate jet was fatally injured on Friday after pilots disconnected a system used to stabilize the aircraft, causing it to suddenly pitch up.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the pilots were responding to several warnings in the cockpit of a Bombardier jet that diverted to a Connecticut airport March 3. They followed a checklist and turned off a switch that trims or adjusts the stabilizer, a control panel on the tail of the plane.
The report said that the plane turned nose-up at several times the force of gravity, then pointed lower before it turned downward again before pilots could regain control.
The NTSB had suggested in a preliminary assessment the day after the incident, pilots told investigators they did not encounter turbulence.
A year ago, the Federal Aviation Administration instructed pilots flying the same model of Bombardier aircraft to take extra preflight precautions after trim problems had been reported. Trim problems can cause buffeting or altitude changes.
Bombardier, the Canadian manufacturer of jets, said it is cooperating with federal investigators and has launched a probe of its own. It told The Associated Press it stands by its aircraft.
Bombardier is deeply saddened by this tragic event, the company said in a statement to FOX Business. We extend our sincerest sympathies to all those affected by this accident. The Challenger 300 plane operated by Missouri-based Conexon LLC was traveling from Keene, New Hampshire to Leesburg, Virginia, before it was diverted to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. Shortly after the in-flight incident, the crew was alerted to the medical emergency, and the pilot did not reengage the autopilot for the remainder of the flight.
The passenger who died, Dana Hyde, 55, was a prominent attorney who worked in both the Obama and Clinton administrations and was a counsel to the 9-11 Commission, according to her 2018 biography. Hyde was a former CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. government foreign aid agency.
It was not clear whether Hyde was in her seat or up and about in the cabin of the jet. She succumbed to her injuries at a Hartford, Connecticut hospital later in the day.
The pilots aborted the initial takeoff because a plastic cover was not removed from a pitot tube, which determines airspeed, and they took off with a rudder limiter fault alert on.
Another warning indicated autopilot stabilizer trim failure. The report said the plane suddenly slid upward as the pilots moved the stabilizer trim switch from primary to off while working through procedures on a checklist.
The report said that the airplane abruptly pitched up as soon as the switch position was moved. The pilot reported that his left hand was on the flight controls and his right hand was guarding the right side of the flight controls. He immediately regained control of the airplane in what he estimated to be a few seconds after the pitch of the airplane sounded up and down.
The pilot instructed the second-in charge to move the stabilizer trim switch back to the primary position, which was accomplished by the second-in charge during the oscillations. The pilot in command had 5,000 total hours and 88 hours in the Challenger 300. The second-in-command pilot accumulated 8,000 hours of total flight hours and 78 hours in the Challenger 300. Both held ratings needed to fly for an airline and only recently received their type rating in this type of Bombardier jet.