NTSB Cites Crew, Inop Brakes in Fatal Falcon 50 Overrun

 - June 26, 2020, 12:00 PM

This week, the NTSB has released the final report on the fatal overrun crash of a Falcon 50 on Sept. 27, 2018, in Greenville, South Carolina. While the report’s probable cause cites the fact that the airplane was flown by unqualified pilots and with unresolved discrepancies, the NTSB did not highlight the fact that the flight was an illegal charter. Both pilots were killed in the accident, and the two paying passengers were seriously injured.

The flight departed from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in Florida with two pilots and two passengers for the flight to Greenville Downtown Airport. Although the NTSB final report notes that the flight was conducted as a Part 135 charter by operator Air America Flight Services, the maintenance factual report from the accident docket and the preliminary report both say that the flight was conducted as a personal flight under Part 91. For some unknown reason, the NTSB does not address the issue of the flight being an illegal charter, despite the renewed focus recently by the FAA and business aviation industry on combating illegal charter.

The copilot was the owner of Air America Flight Services, which was headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida, and held air carrier certificate X09A317J. He held a private pilot certificate with single- and multiengine land ratings, but not an instrument rating. The ATP-rated captain of the flight was type rated in Learjet and Westwind jets and held “a type rating for the Dassault Falcon 50 with a limitation for second-in-command privileges only,” according to the NTSB.

In addition to the pilots being unqualified to conduct a Part 135 flight, there was a problem with the Falcon 50’s brakes. The airplane was overdue for a mandatory landing gear overhaul, and the anti-skid system was inoperative. The airplane was undergoing maintenance, which was interrupted to complete the flight. The NTSB report noted, “Before the accident flight, the airplane had been in long-term storage for several years and was in the process of undergoing maintenance to bring the airplane back to a serviceable condition, which, in part, required the completion of several inspections, an overhaul of the landing gear, and the resolution of over 100 other unresolved discrepancies.” 

The accident revenue flight and others before that performed by Air America Flight Services “were all made with only a portion of this required maintenance having been completed and properly documented in the airplane's maintenance logs,” according to the NTSB. Despite the maintenance not being complete, a pilot had flown the Falcon 50 four times before the accident flight, reconfiguring the braking system to use the emergency braking system because the normal braking system would not actuate when the airplane was traveling at more than 20 knots. 

During the accident, the NTSB said, “It is likely that these discrepancies resulted in the normal braking system's failure to function during the landing…Following the accident, the switch was found positioned with the normal braking system activated, and it is likely that the accident flight crew attempted to utilize the malfunctioning normal braking system during the landing.”