NEWARK, N.J. — A pilot’s inability or reluctance to fly quickly enough out of icing conditions led to a fiery plane crash on a New Jersey highway median that killed all five people aboard, a federal report published Thursday concluded.
The December 2011 crash killed pilot Jeffrey Buckalew, an investment banker; his wife and two children, and Rakesh Chawla, a colleague at New York’s Greenhill & Co. Buckalew was the registered owner of the single-engine Socata TBM 700 and had more than 1,400 hours of flight time, according to the report.
The plane had departed Teterboro Airport en route to Georgia when it began spiraling out of control at about 17,000 feet and crashed on a wooded median on Interstate 287 near Morristown. No one on the ground was injured. Wreckage was scattered over a half-mile area, forcing the closure of the busy roadway for several hours.
The National Transportation Safety Board report concluded that while Buckalew had asked air traffic controllers to fly higher and out of the icing conditions, he may have been reluctant to exercise his own authority to do so or may have been unaware of the severity of the conditions.
The NTSB attributed the cause of the accident to ‘‘the airplane’s encounter with unforecasted severe icing conditions that were characterized by high ice accretion rates and the pilot’s failure to use his command authority to depart the icing conditions in an expeditious manner, which resulted in a loss of airplane control.’’
Ice can form on airplanes when temperatures are near freezing and there is visible moisture, such as clouds or rain.
The ice adds weight to an aircraft, and rough accumulations known as rime interrupt the flow of air over wings.