NTSB to decide probable cause for Akron jet crash

By Mark Gillispie - Associated Press

CLEVELAND (AP) — Federal investigators are set to decide the probable cause for a corporate jet crash that killed nine people on approach to an Ohio airport last November.

The National Transportation Safety Board was scheduled to meet on Tuesday in Washington.

The jet crashed less than two miles from the runway at Akron Fulton International Airport. Surveillance video from a nearby business shows the jet descending at a high rate of speed over trees before crashing into an apartment building and exploding. No one on the ground was injured.

The two pilots on board were killed, along with seven employees of a commercial real estate company based in Boca Raton, Florida.

Transcripts of cockpit conversations between the pilots indicated that it was the first officer, Renato Marchese, and not the flight’s captain, Oscar Chavez, at the controls when the jet crashed. A former pilot with Fort Lauderdale-based charter company, Execuflight, told NTSB investigators last month that it was an informal policy at the company for captains to control a plane during takeoffs and landings, and not first officers, when passengers were on board.

Marchese’s previous employer fired him about nine months before the crash. Execuflight owner Augusto Lewkowicz told investigators that he hired Marchese based on a recommendation from another pilot and didn’t dig into his past. Marchese’s previous employer fired him for not learning quickly enough and for his inattention to details, such as accurately calculating weight and balance numbers needed to determine whether an aircraft is safe to fly.

There are indications in NTSB documents that the plane’s total weight exceeded the number the pilots used by 600 pounds.

Former Execuflight pilot Donnie Shackleford told investigators that Marchese had said he was worried about working with Chavez because of their inexperience flying in wintry weather. Shackleford said he was dismissed from the company about a week before the NTSB interview. According to Shackleford, Marchese told him not long before the crash: “If they put me and Oscar together we’re going to get ourselves killed.”

The crash occurred on rainy day with a low cloud cover. A flight instructor on a small plane that landed minutes before the crash had radioed Chavez and Marchese that his plane had emerged from the clouds at the minimum altitude acceptable for a safe landing at the Akron airport. The jet pilots acknowledge the instructor’s transmission.

A transcript of the cockpit voice recorder indicates that Chavez warned Marchese that he was flying too slowly on approach and that the jet was in danger of stalling.

By Mark Gillispie

Associated Press

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