A newly released report from the National Transportation Safety Board details events leading up to a 23-year-old copilot jumping from a plane for an emergency landing on July 29 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
The NTSB report said Charles Hew Crooks was “visibly upset” as they planned their approach to RDU with air traffic control.
Crooks’ copilot, who was in charge, reported moderate in-flight turbulence and that, after conducting the approach and emergency briefing, Crooks became “visibly upset” about the hard landing about 20 minutes after the diversion to RDU.
According to the report, Crooks had communicated with air traffic control up to that point in the flight. After his final broadcast, the captain says that Crooks opened his cockpit side window and “may have gotten sick”.
The captain then took over radio communications and said Crooks was lowering the ramp at the rear of the plane, “indicating that it felt like he was going to get sick and need air.”
Scammers apologized before leaving the plane
The captain told the NTSB that they had already flown two paratroopers that day, before landing at Raeford West Airport to pick up a third group. According to the USSOC, they had assisted in routine Fort Bragg training.
Crooks was flying the approach as the aircraft descended below the treeline and “descended”. Both pilots then called for a “go-around” maneuver, which Crooks initiated. However, before Crooks could begin climbing, the right main landing gear hit the runway.
The captain took control of Crooks and flew a low approach to allow airport personnel to check the damage. Airport officials informed the pilot that they found a broken piece of landing gear on the runway, prompting the captain to tell Crooks to declare an emergency and request a diversion to RDU before landing.
According to the report, Crooks “got up from his seat, removed his headphones, apologized and exited the plane through the tailgate.”
Crooks’ body was found in a backyard of Fuquay-Varina hours after the plane landed on RDU.
Crooks’ colleague responds to report findings
WRAL News ran through the NTSB report with Crooks’ former colleague, Laurent Bert-Roussel, who spent eight hours on the air with Crooks.
“I was shocked and didn’t believe it,” said Bert-Roussel. “The report says he jumped, or he jumped or he fell.”
Bert-Roussel still wonders if Crooks jumped or fell.
“He was very professional, nice, sympathetic,” said Bert-Roussel. “But I’ve never seen him in a stressful position. People deal with stress differently.”
The captain provided details for the report; however, their name has been redacted.