Information recovered from a flight recorder of a private jet that crashed last month in Massachusetts, killing seven, suggests that the crew did not check to see if their flight controls worked before takeoff, federal investigators said in a preliminary report released Friday.
"Review of FDR (Flight Data Recorder) data parameters associated with the flight control surface positions did not reveal any movement consistent with a flight control check prior to the commencement of the takeoff roll," the report said.
Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz and six others were killed in the May 31 at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass.
"Before you back out of your driveway you turn your wheel all the way to the left and all the way to the right to make sure it works," said aviation safety consultant John Cox. "There is no evidence that that was actually done on that [plane] before departure."
The plane reached a takeoff speed of around 189 mph but never got off the runway as the crew applied brakes and reverse thrusters, the report said. Tire marks consistent with braking began about 1,300 feet from the end of the runway and continued for about an additional 1,000 feet.
The plane rolled off the runway and into a gully before bursting into flames, the report said.
The report also noted a problem with the airplane's gust lock system, which secures the rudder, aileron and elevators in the neutral position to protect the plane from wind gusts while it is parked.
The recorder data revealed the airplane's controls acted as if the gust lock was engaged even though the handle that locks the system was found in the "off" position, the report said.
"That may explain why the aircraft never flew even though it was operating at a speed that would have been sufficient to generate rotation or lift," said Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst. "They were essentially held in a neutral position."