Pilot Error Blamed for 2015 Akron Crash

Pilot error was blamed for the crash in Akron last year of a private jet that killed nine people, but a National Transportation Safety Board report also singled out a poor safety culture at the company that owned the plane and lax FAA inspectors.

NTSBThe crash of the Hawker 125-700 jet while on final approach to Akron Fulton International Airport occurred on Nov. 10, 2015, in the Ellet neighborhood in low-visibility conditions.

The plane struck an apartment building and one person on the ground was injured.

The plane, leased by Augusto Lewkowicz of Execuflight in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was on a flight from Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport.

The seven passengers were employees of Pebb Enterprises of Boca Raton, Florida, and they had been looking at locations for shopping centers. All of them resided in Florida.

At the time of the crash, the plane was being flown by first officer Renato Marchese, 50. The captain was Oscar Chavez, 40.

The NTSB concluded that the crash resulted from the flight crew’s “mismanagement of the approach and multiple deviations from company standard operating procedures which placed the airplane in an unsafe situation.”

Before the crash, Marchese had slowed the speed of the jet because, the NTSB said, it was likely that Chavez had expressed concerns about another aircraft in the region.

The plane should have been traveling at about 165 mph, or 144 knots, on its approach but instead was flying at 125 mph, or 109 knots. The wing flaps should have been in a different position than they were.

As a result, the jet stalled and crashed two miles from the airport. The plane’s left wing tilted toward the ground, clipped utility wires, hit the ground and struck the apartment building.

The crew also had miscalculated the weight of passengers, luggage and fuel, and failed to go through a required checklist as they approached the airport.

NTSB investigators also found the pilots were fatigued at the time of the flight, but no evidence was found of drug or alcohol use by either pilot.

Nor did investigators find any structural defects that would have affected the jet’s performance.

Some of those killed in the crash might have survived had it not been for a fire that broke out after impact.

The NTSB said Chavez had been fired from a previous job for failing to show up for recurrent training. Marchese had been fired from a previous job for “significant performance deficiencies.”

The NTSB said that ExecuFlight did not do a follow-up evaluation on the reasons why the two pilots were terminated from their previous employers.

The safety board also faulted ExecuFlight  for have a casual attitude that set a poor example to pilots and for operational safety. The company lacked a safety management system designed to establish and reinforce a positive safety culture, the NTSB said.

A former Execuflight employee said that the company’s owner ordered him to lie to investigators in the wake of the crash. The former employee told NTSB investigators that ExecuFlight destroyed or altered flight records after the crash.

Two days after the NTSB report was released, ExecuFlight released a statement disputing the NTSB’s report.

Execuflight said it conducted complete background checks on the two pilots who were flying the plane and that both had successfully completed a training program.

“We’re regretful for the crash, but we don’t feel responsibility,” ExecuFlight CEO Leskowicz told WOIO-TV in Cleveland. “We didn’t do anything in that crash as a company to set it up for that.”

Leskowicz said his company did everything it was supposed to do in all legal areas of aviation, from hiring to training. He contended that Chavez had left his previous position voluntarily.

“Sometimes pilots require additional training,” he said. “That was not the case for these people. So it caught us all by surprise.”

Leskowicz blamed other factors for the crash including weather conditions and mistakes made by air traffic controllers in Akron. Specifically, he said the latter included miscommunication during a shift change.

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