The NTSB’s preliminary report, issued last week, on the June 18 crash of an Israel Aerospace Industries Westwind II at Huntsville International Airport in Alabama revealed few clues about what caused the aircraft to bank steeply to the right just after takeoff and crash into an open field near the airport.
Shortly after the aircraft landed so the pilots could change seats, one of the crew told ATC they wanted vectors after takeoff for a series of ILS approaches before departing the area. An airport camera tracked the first 1,000 feet of the aircraft’s takeoff roll on Runway 18R, and in that video all appeared normal. Eyewitnesses later said that the Westwind rotated, climbed to an altitude of between 50 and 200 feet and, with its landing gear retracted, rolled into a 90-degree right bank before hitting the ground. An airliner on final approach to Huntsville saw the Westwind climb steeply after becoming airborne. Both the cockpit voice recorder and enhanced ground proximity warning system were recovered and sent to the NTSB laboratory for analysis.
According to the Safety Board, VFR conditions were in effect at the time of the accident, with wind from the west at five knots.
A post-impact fire destroyed the aircraft and claimed the lives of the three pilots, who had been conducting a Part 91 proficiency flight.