NTSB: Co-pilot apologized before exiting plane mid-flight, falling to his death

RALEIGH, N.C. — A new report provides more detail surrounding the death of a 23-year-old pilot who exited a plane in mid-air before an emergency landing in Raleigh, North Carolina, last month.

The deceased pilot, Charles Hew Crooks, was second-in-command of a skydiving plane that had just completed two skydiving runs before the incident.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Crooks was flying the approach to Raeford West Airport in a CASA C-212 Aviocar and was “on heading, altitude and airspeed” when the airplane “dropped.” Both pilots called for a go-around, but the right landing gear hit the runway and broke away from the aircraft. The pilot-in-command, not named in the report, took over the controls and diverted to Raleigh-Durham International Airport for an emergency landing.

After about 20 minutes on their way to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Crooks “became visibly upset about the hard landing,” according to the report. The other pilot later told the NTSB that Crooks reportedly opened the cockpit window and “may have gotten sick.” The unidentified pilot told the NTSB that he took over radio communications, which Crooks had been doing, and continued to fly to Raleigh.

Meanwhile, Crooks reportedly opened the aircraft’s ramp because he “felt like he was going to be sick and needed air.”

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The aircraft’s ramp is located at the back of the plane, often used for skydiving.

The report said Crooks then got up, walked to the back of the aircraft and “departed the airplane.”

“The [pilot in command] stated that [Crooks] then got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized, and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door,” according to the NTSB report.

The pilot immediately turned around to search for Crooks, who had exited without a parachute.

Crooks’ body would later be found in a Fuquay-Varina neighborhood.

The aircraft made the emergency landing without the landing gear, veering off the right side of the runway before stopping on the grass.

The NTSB is expected to file a final report on the incident at a later date.

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