Challenger pilot said yoke was jammed in TEB crash

 - February 1, 2007, 10:27 AM

The recently released NTSB preliminary report on the February 2 crash of a Bombardier Challenger 600 at New Jersey’s Teterboro (TEB) Airport was all too brief, considering the stir the spectacular, though nonfatal, accident caused in the national media. On takeoff, Challenger N370V not only slid off the end of Runway 6 but went through the airport fence and hurtled across busy six-lane U.S. Route 46 at 7:17 a.m., striking cars and finally slamming into a warehouse across the highway, where it burst into flames. The accident sequence took 46 seconds, though the flight data recorder contains only 10 seconds of data.

In those 10 seconds, the flight data recorder showed the aircraft reached 153 knots (VR is typically about 134 knots). At the end of the recording, the airplane was traveling at 91 knots.

The pilot and copilot were seriously injured; the copilot had both legs fractured. The copilot was still in the hospital at press time. The passengers–five employees of Manhattan investment firm Kelso and three business associates–were not seriously injured. Several people in cars on the highway were injured, two seriously, including a man in a Toyota Camry whose roof was sheared off by the airplane.

The corporate jet, en route to Chicago Midway Airport, was owned by 448 Alliance of Dallas; leased to DDH Aircraft, also of Dallas; and operated by Platinum Jet Management of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The crash temporarily closed the airport and stopped traffic on the highway.

The pilot told investigators that he tried to pull back on the yoke to rotate, but it moved only about an inch toward him and the aircraft didn’t respond. Deciding to abort the takeoff, he deployed the thrust reversers, braked and tried to steer the aircraft.

Part of the media frenzy dated back to the November 28 crash of a Challenger 601 that failed to take off from Montrose, Colo., killing three people, including a son of NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, who was also on board. That airplane had not been de-iced, and after that crash, which is still under investigation, the NTSB warned pilots to check wings carefully before takeoff to make sure they are clear of ice. A Challenger 604 crashed on takeoff in England in 2002, killing five people, an accident that the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch blamed on the fatigued crew’s failure to de-ice the airplane’s wings.

Although there was speculation that icing might have contributed to the recent TEB accident–the temperature was 22 degrees but the sky was clear and there was no wind–several witnesses said there was no ice on the airplane and the airport surveillance video showed none. The Challenger had arrived at TEB at about midnight, and Million Air, where it parked overnight, told the NTSB that it had de-iced a RON Citation at 6:15 a.m.–about an hour before the Challenger crew attempted to take off. The Citation treatment was the only report of de-icing that morning.

On February 18, the FAA was scheduled to meet with NBAA, NATA, GAMA and other interested parties in the industry to discuss issues related to business aviation safety in general. The agency called the closed meeting after the spate of business aviation accidents at the end of last year. Pilot training and decision-making were among the topics on the agenda.

NTSB Blames Crews for Challenger Takeoff Aborts at TEB in 2003

On Dec. 16, 2003, a Challenger 600 was involved in three aborted takeoffs on the same day at Teterboro Airport. The NTSB released its final report on the third incident late last year. The first flight crew had successfully aborted two takeoffs in the jet after unsuccessful attempts to rotate at 132 knots. (The airplane had performed satisfactorily on a previous flight, but 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of fuel had been added since.) After a maintenance check showed no discrepancies that would have prevented rotation, a different flight crew arrived to fly the airplane and was briefed on the two previous aborted takeoffs.

The new captain attempted to take off on a shorter runway at TEB. During an attempt at rotation, the airplane did not respond to elevator inputs and the captain aborted the takeoff. The airplane then ran off the end of the runway and came to rest in mud. There were no injuries and the jet sustained only minor damage.

The captain for the overrun could not produce a weight-and-balance calculation or an accurate count of passengers on board, but subsequent calculations revealed that the airplane was above mtow and outside the forward center-of-gravity limit. The crew had been giving demonstration flights. The airplane later took off uneventfully with no passengers on board.

The Safety Board blamed the incident on the captain’s inadequate preflight planning, which resulted in an overrun during an aborted takeoff.