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Company That Operated The Plane in Fatal Akron Crash Was 'Infested With Sloppiness'

Robert Sumwalt

After a nearly year-long investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board has issued its “probable cause” findings for the crash of a chartered jet in Akron last fall. It says pilot error and a corporate culture caused the crash that killed nine people.

Pilot error, including coming in too low and slow on approach to Akron Fulton International Airport were the immeidate causes of the accident according to the NTSB. 

But investigators say systemic management failures and lax attention to safety by the charter service that operated the plane were contributing factors.

Board member Robert Sumwalt was sharply critical of Florida-based ExecuFlight.

“Maintenance records were not accurate. They did not look into why that pilot of was fired from his previous employer. They did not ensure that the crews were operating according to standards. And we saw that the flight deck was not following procedures.

'Execuflight's casual attitude toward safety likely led its pilots to believe that strict adherence to standard operating procedures was not required.'

"This organization, whether we are talking about the cockpit level or the organizational level, it was infested with sloppiness.”

Nine people died in the November, 2015 crash: All seven passengers aboard the flight, and the pilot and copilot. Though the plane crashed into an apartment building about 4 miles from the airport, no one on the ground was injured.

Here's the NTSB summary of what went wrong:

WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Boarddetermined Tuesday that the flight crew’s mismanagement of the approach and multiple deviations from standard operating procedures caused the Nov. 10, 2015, crash of a Part 135 on-demand charter flight in Akron, Ohio. The charter company’s casual attitude toward compliance with standards was a contributing factor in the accident.

Execuflight flight 1526, en route to Akron Fulton International Airport, was on a non-precision approach and descended below the minimum descent altitude, even though the pilots did not have the runway in sight. When the first officer attempted to arrest the descent, the airplane, a British Aerospace HS 125-700A (Hawker 700A), entered an aerodynamic stall and crashed into a four-unit apartment building, killing all nine persons on board the airplane. There were no fatalities on the ground.

Remnants of the crash
The plane crashed about 4 miles from the airport, striking a power line on the way down.

“Execuflight’s casual attitude toward safety likely led its pilots to believe that strict adherence to standard operating procedures was not required,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “Following standard operating procedures is critical to flight safety. Adhering to these procedures could have prevented this accident and saved lives.”

The NTSB investigation revealedthat the crew deviated from numerous standard operating procedures. For example, contrary to the company’s practice of having the captain fly the airplane with revenue passengers on board, the first officer was flying, and the captain was monitoring. Also, the captain’s approach briefing was unstructured, inconsistent, and incomplete, and, as a result, the flight crew had no shared understanding of how the approach was to be conducted.

When it became apparent that the approach was unstabilized, the captain, who was ultimately responsible for the safety of the flight, did not take control of the airplane or call for a missed approach.

Based upon the findings from the NTSB’s investigation of this accident, the Board issued nine safety recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration, two to Textron Aviation, and two to Hawker 700- and 800-series training centers. These recommendations include requiring flight data monitoring and safety management systems for Part 135 operators and improving pilot training on non-precision approaches.

To view the findings, probable cause and recommendations from this investigation, click on the following link: http://go.usa.gov/xkdBr.