The NTSB has released its preliminary report into an emergency landing of a CASA 212 last month at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), Durham, North Carolina after the plane's co-pilot exited the plane mid-flight and fell to his death.
Emergency crews later found the body of 23-year-old Charles Hew Crooks near a residential area in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina.
In its report, the agency notes that the aircraft had suffered substantial damage on July 29 when its right main landing gear impacted a runway at the Raeford West Airport (NR20), in Raeford, North Carolina.
The CASA 212, registration N497CA, was being operated as a Part 91 skydiving flight. The pilot-in-command told investigators that they had flown two skydiving runs and were descending to Raeford West to pick up a third group. On approach NR20 and was "on heading, altitude and airspeed" until the airplane descended below the tree line and "dropped."
Both pilots called for a go-around, the report states, which the second-in-command initiated.
"However, before the (second-in-command) could arrest the airplane's sink rate and initiate a climb, the right main landing gear impacted the runway surface," the report states.
The pilot-in-command took control when the plane reached 400 feet and then flew a low approach over the airport to have airfield personnel verify the damage.
The personnel called the pilot to let him know that they recovered the landing gear on the runway. The crew then declared an emergency and requested a diversion to Raleigh-Durham for landing.
"While en route to RDU, the crew coordinated with air traffic control, operations, and their customer, and planned their approach and landing at RDU, with the (second-in-command) responsible for communicating with air traffic control while the (pilot-in-command flew the airplane," the report states.PREVIOUS STORY: Copilot found dead after exiting plane mid-flight ahead of emergency landing
About 20 minutes into the diversion, the report states that the second-in-command" became visibly upset about the hard landing."
In air traffic control radio communication information provided by the FAA, he had been communicating with air traffic control up to that point, acknowledging a course heading from air traffic control in his final transmission.
"The PIC described that about this time the SIC opened his side cockpit window and ‘may have gotten sick,'" the report states.
The pilot-in-command took over radio communications, and the second-in-command lowered the plane's rear ramp, "indicating that felt like he was going to be sick and needed air."
At that point, the pilot-in-command told investigations, the second-in-command "got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized, and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door. "
The pilot-in-command did not see his copilot grab a bar that is about 6 feet above the ramp.
After turning to search for the fallen pilot, the pilot-in-command told air traffic control that his copilot had departed the airplane without a parachute.
A 911 call placed by tower staff indicates that the copilot might have jumped from the aircraft, but the NTSB report does not outright reach that conclusion.
At RDU, the pilot performed a low-approach and then emergency landing, coming to rest upright in the grass on the right side of a runway.
Post-accident examination of the airplane revealed substantial damage to the right main landing fear, as well as the landing gear fittings, and the airframe structure where the fittings attached.
The aircraft is being held for further examination. Aspects in a preliminary report can change before a final report is issued, which can take months or longer.