Turbulence did not cause the violent movements on a private flight from Keene, N.H., that left a former White House official dead earlier this month, according to a preliminary report released Friday.
The National Transportation Safety Board previously said the flight experienced severe turbulence after taking off from Keene on March 3, causing critical injuries to one passenger, later identified as 55-year-old Dana Hyde of Cabin John, Md. Hyde was pronounced dead at a hospital following an emergency landing in Connecticut.
The NTSB’s preliminary report detailed a series of flight issues before and after takeoff, and said the flight crew did not experience “any remarkable turbulence during the flight, nor during the time immediately surrounding the in-flight upset event.”
The report said the two pilots operating the Bombardier Challenger 300 received a series of alerts, during and after takeoff, before switching off a setting used to stabilize the plane immediately before it lurched.
The report also said the pilots had to abort their initial takeoff because a probe on the plane’s exterior was covered.
Hyde, a prominent executive who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations and as counsel to the 9/11 commission, was flying with her husband, Jonathan Chambers, and one of their sons. They were on their way home to Maryland after visiting schools in New England. Chambers and their son were not injured.
The flight had taken off from Keene Dillant-Hopkins Airport at 3:35 p.m. and was en route to Leesburg Executive Airport in Virginia, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware. The flight only lasted about 25 minutes before it touched down in an emergency landing at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., where an ambulance was waiting to attend to Hyde.
In the NTSB’s report, the pilots said that after climbing to about 6,000 feet they observed and heard a series of caution messages in the cockpit, including one that reported an “autopilot stabilizer trim failure” and another that said the autopilot was “HOLDING NOSE DOWN.”
The pilot-in-command directed the second pilot to pull up the primary stabilizer trim failure checklist from a reference handbook on an iPad located in the cockpit, the report said. The first action on the checklist was to move the stabilizer trim switch, located on the center console, to the “off” position, the report stated.
“As soon as the switch position was moved, the airplane abruptly pitched up,” the report stated. “He [the pilot-in-command] immediately with both hands regained control of the airplane in what he estimated to be a few seconds after the airplane’s pitch oscillated up and down.”
Shortly after this “in-flight upset,” a passenger alerted the flight crew that another passenger had been injured, according to the report. The second-in-command pilot exited the cockpit to check on the passenger, later identified as Hyde, and then informed the pilot-in-command that it was a medical emergency and they needed to land, the report stated. The report did not indicate whether Hyde was wearing a seatbelt.
Chambers, Hyde’s husband, later described the event in an e-mail to employees and clients of Conexon, a Kansas City-based company where he is a partner, in the days following his wife’s death.
“We were returning home when the plane suddenly convulsed in a manner that violently threw the three of us,” he wrote. “My wife was badly injured. The pilots made an emergency landing. An ambulance was waiting. Dana was taken to a hospital, but the injuries were too severe and she died that night.”
The two pilots were not injured, and the airplane was not damaged, the report stated.
According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the pilot-in-command held an airline transport pilot certificate and had accumulated 5,061 total flight hours, and 88 hours in the Bombardier Challenger 300; and the second-in-command pilot also held an airline transport pilot certificate and had accumulated 8,025 total flight hours, and 78 hours in that particular make and model airplane.
Both pilots also completed initial ground and simulator training and earned their pilot-in-command type rating in the Challenger 300, the report stated.
The airplane was retained for further examination and the cockpit voice recorder was retained for transcription, the report stated.
The pilots are employed by Executive Flight Services, which also manages the aircraft, according to the report. The plane is owned by Conexon. Messages were sent to Executive Flight Services and Conexon seeking comment on the NTSB report Friday.
In his e-mail to Conexon employees and clients, Chambers wrote lovingly of his wife, whom he described as a successful professional who was passionate about her work and a “wonderful mother to our two boys.”
“She loved and was beloved,” he wrote.