NTSB finds corporate jet unbalanced when it overran runway

Tuesday, October 31st 2006, 2:02 pm

By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A private charter jet taking off from New Jersey last year overran the runway after the flight crew failed to properly calculate the plane's center of gravity, federal investigators said Tuesday, adding that more federal oversight might have caught the problem sooner.

``This is a basic airmanship, Flying 101-type of thing,'' investigator Steve Demko told the National Transportation Safety Board at a public hearing into the cause of the crash of the Bombardier Challenger CL-600, a corporate jet being used that day as a private charter.

The NTSB also found a contributing factor in the crash was the lack of close oversight of the private charter industry by the Federal Aviation Administration. Often with charters, a flight is sold and scheduled by a broker company but the plane is actually flown and maintained by separate businesses known as operators.

Board chairman Mark Rosenker blasted the crew's decision-making as ``truly, truly disturbing.''

The plane operated by Platinum Jet Management overshot the runway on Feb. 2, 2005 during an aborted takeoff attempt from Teterboro, N.J. The jet crashed into a fence, two cars, and a warehouse, causing a fire. No one was killed, but four people suffered serious injuries and 10 others suffered minor injuries.

Demko told board members that the crew did not properly calculate the plane's center of gravity _ a critical move to ensure that the plane will lift properly during takeoff. A pre-crash decision by the crew to top off its fuel tanks before it departed Teterboro for Chicago moved the jet's center of gravity too far forward, he said.

NTSB recommendations included:

_ Closer FAA oversight of private charter companies, particularly when such companies enter into side-agreements with each other to gain government certification.

_ Require seat belts to be plainly visible on charter flights. On the Teterboro plane, some seat belts were tucked away under a sofa seat, and two passengers were injured because they were tossed around when the plane went off the runway.

_ Require cabin hosts on private charters to undergo basic emergency training. On the Teterboro plane, the hostess, who was not a flight attendant, had no such training and passengers had to open the cabin door themselves to escape.

Investigators found Platinum Jet Management employees had altered flight weight records. The FAA has already come down hard on the company, citing Platinum Jet Management for numerous violations.

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