A Maryland woman who died after a business jet flight in early March was hurt because the aircraft violently bucked up and down after pilots disconnected a system used to stabilize the plane — not because of turbulence, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released Friday.
The Bombardier Challenger 300 was heading from Keene, New Hampshire to Leesburg, Virginia when Dana Hyde, 55, of Cabin John, Maryland, was injured.
The pilots were responding to several warnings in the cockpit of the Bombardier jet that diverted to a Connecticut airport on March 3. They followed a checklist and turned off a switch that “trims” or adjusts the stabilizer, a control panel on the plane’s tail, the NTSB said.
The plane turned nose-up at several times the force of gravity, then pointed lower before again turning upward before pilots could regain control, the report said. Caution messages went off as the airplane pitched rapidly during the flight, the NTSB said.
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Pilots told investigators they did not encounter turbulence, as the NTSB had said in a preliminary assessment the day after the crash.
After the plane was diverted to Bradley International Airport, Hyde was taken to a local hospital, where she died of blunt-force injuries.
Hyde served in government positions during the Clinton and Obama administrations and was counsel for the 9/11 Commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
It was unclear if Hyde was belted in her seat or up and about, in the cabin, of the jet owned by Conexon, based in Kansas City, Missouri. Her husband and his son, along with the pilot and co-pilot, were not injured in the incident, the report said.
The trim system of the Bombardier Challenger 300 twin-engine jet was the subject of a Federal Aviation Administration last year mandate that pilots conduct extra safety checks before flights.
The report indicated the pilots aborted their initial takeoff because no one removed a plastic cover from one of the pitot tubes that determine airspeed, and they took off with a rudder limiter fault alert on.
Another warning indicated autopilot stabilizer trim failure. The plane abruptly pitched upward as the pilots moved the stabilizer trim switch from primary to off while working through procedures on a checklist, the report said.
The plane violently oscillated up and down and the "stick pusher” activated, the report said, meaning the onboard computer thought the plane was in danger of an aerodynamic stall.
The flight crew was comprised of two experienced pilots with 5,000 and 8,000 hours of flying time, and held ratings needed to fly for an airline. But both were relatively new to this model aircraft, earning their ratings last October.
The FAA issued its directive about Bombardier Challenger 300 jets last year after multiple instances in which the horizontal stabilizer on the aircrafts caused the nose of the plane to turn down after the pilot tried to make the aircraft climb.