Wednesday, June 4
BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — Data from the flight recorder on a jet that crashed over the weekend in Massachusetts, killing Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz and six other people, show the plane reached minimum takeoff speed but never lifted off the ground before it plunged into a ravine and burst into flames, a National Transportation Safety Board official said Tuesday.
The data also showed a rise in brake pressure and the deployment of thrust reversers, suggesting an effort by the crew to slow or stop the doomed aircraft.
"There are indications that the brake pressure was rising, consistent with deceleration, and we're also observing tire marks on the runway," said Luke Schiada, lead investigator for the NTSB.
Information retrieved from the Gulfstream IV's cockpit voice recorder picked up a conversation between the pilot and co-pilot of the about an aircraft control issue, Schiada said, but he would not elaborate and stressed that investigators had not yet determined the cause of the crash.
The Saturday night crash at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts, killed Katz and six others on his private jet.
The chief pilot was James McDowell, of Georgetown, Delaware, authorities said. Spouses identified two of the crew members as flight attendant Teresa Benhoff, 48, of Easton, Maryland, and co-pilot Bauke "Mike" de Vries, 45, of Marlton, New Jersey.
The other victims were identified as Katz's neighbor at the New Jersey shore, Anne Leeds, a 74-year-old retired preschool teacher he invited on the trip just that day; Marcella Dalsey, the director of Katz's son's foundation; and Susan Asbell, 67, the wife of a former New Jersey county prosecutor.
The information from the black boxes, which were recovered from the wreckage Monday night, was still being analyzed at the NTSB lab in Washington, officials said. A preliminary report on the crash was possible within 10 days, the NTSB said, but a final report would not be completed for months.
The flight recorder indicated the aircraft reached a speed of 165 knots (190 mph) before deceleration began, Schiada said, and 49 seconds elapsed from the beginning of ground roll until the sound of impact. The pilot indicated the plane had reached a safe speed for takeoff, according to the data.
The plane left the runway, continued across a grassy field for more than 800 feet before slamming through a fence and into the ravine.
The information indicates "a late abort or late rejected takeoff," making it impossible to stop the plane before it left the runway, said John Hansman, an aviation expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Officials were still working to remove the wreckage from the site and the engines had yet to be examined, Schiada said.
Investigators also planned to examine other evidence, including maintenance records, crew medical records and witnesses' accounts. No surveillance video from the airport examined thus far captured the actual crash, he said.
A memorial service for Katz is to be held Wednesday at Temple University. Among the scheduled speakers are former president Bill Clinton, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, comedian and fellow Temple trustee Bill Cosby, Katz's son, Drew, and author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose home Katz had visited earlier Saturday.