A copilot who jumped to his death from a small airplane in North Carolina was upset over damaging the craft's landing gear during a failed runaway approach and told the pilot he needed air, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The plane's pilot in command told federal investigators that his copilot “became visibly upset about the hard landing” in the minutes after they diverted to another airport for an emergency landing, the report stated.
The copilot opened his side cockpit window and said he felt sick, the report stated. He then “got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door.”
The pilot told investigators that Charles Hew Crooks, 23, the second-in-command on the CASA CN-212 Aviocar, did not appear to reach for the bar above the ramp to try to hold on.
The incident occurred July 29 about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Crooks did not have a parachute, and his body was found in a backyard in the town of Fuquay-Varina.
Tuesday's report said that the two pilots had been flying skydiving runs out of Raeford West Airport earlier in the day. They were descending toward the airport for a third run when the hard landing occurred.
Crooks was flying the approach when the aircraft “dropped” and both pilots called for a go-around maneuver, the report stated. Before Crooks could initiate a climb, the right main landing gear impacted the runway.
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The other pilot assumed the flight controls, the report stated. He directed Crooks to declare an emergency and request a diversion to Raleigh-Durham International Airport for landing.
The pilot told investigators that Crooks became upset “about 20 minutes into the diversion to RDU, after conducting approach and emergency briefings,” the report stated.