You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

breaking news

Florida lawmakers move closer to gambling deal

NTSB: ‘Litany of failures’ led to plane crash that killed 7 from Boca


The flight crew, the parent company and federal officials share the blame for this past year’s plane crash in Ohio that killed the pilots and seven people from a suburban Boca Raton commercial real estate firm, the National Transportation Safety Board ruled during a meeting Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

“There were a litany of failures involved” in the wreck of the ExecuFlight plane carrying employees of PEBB Enterprises on a scouting trip of Midwest properties, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said Tuesday in describing layers of problems in the Nov. 10 crash.

The passengers expected a safe flight, Sumwalt said. “Instead they got a company … that ‘had a casual attitude toward standards and compliance.’ ”

READ MORE: Complete coverage of the Ohio plane crash

ExecuFlight President Danny Lewkowicz said Tuesday afternoon that he was aware of the NTSB’s report but declined immediate comment on it on the advice of legal counsel. According to its website, the Fort Lauderdale-based company still offers charter flights to destinations reaching as far south as South America.

The NTSB board used its findings to urge the Federal Aviation Administration, manufacturers and training centers to make more than a dozen changes to bolster pilot training, monitor flight data more closely and define landing procedures more clearly. FAA officials, they said, needed to do more to make sure its rules were followed.

Those recommendations come after a nearly year-long investigation into the wreck, which happened about two miles short of Akron Fulton International Airport in northeast Ohio.

The fatal descent began when the pilots slowed the Hawker Siddeley 125 two-engine plane below standards, and the plane stalled, a NTSB report says. The jet plunged toward the ground at 2,000 feet per minute, according to NTSB reports, and hit trees about 55 feet up. It struck an apartment building as it neared the ground at about 3 p.m. on a foggy, cloudy afternoon. The building burst into flames but no residents were injured.

The board ruled that some of the people on board the flight might have survived the initial impact, had the plane not caught fire and the flames rapidly spread.

While weather conditions were a concern early in the investigation, the board’s findings determined the flight crew failed to follow multiple standard operating procedures. Neither alcohol nor drugs were a factor in the crash, the board ruled, although the first officer, who was flying the plane, hadn’t taken the mandatory 10-hour break between flights.

The board said ExecuFlight had a “check-the-box approach” to regulations, and throughout the meeting NTSB members routinely mentioned Capt. Oscar Chavez’ failing test scores. He answered 40 percent of test questions correctly, the board found, though records show he scored 100 percent.

It was not necessarily inadequate training that caused the crew to be unprepared, the board determined, but rather apathetic enforcement.

Both Chavez and the pilot, flight officer Renato Marchese, had been fired from other jobs recently for performance problems. ExecuFlight knew about the terminations, the board said, but failed to learn why. The spouses of at least two passengers killed in the plane wreck have filed negligence suits against the dead pilots’ estates and ExecuFlight.

Neither engine nor system failures were to blame for the wreck, according to NTSB findings, but Sumwalt said “it shows a pervasive disregard for doing things right.”

The board noted the company’s “sloppy” procedures, including inaccurate maintenance records and outdated landing techniques. The NTSB’s official report released Tuesday says the accident was probably caused by the flight crew mismanaging the landing and violating procedures to place the airplane in an unsafe, unstable path that led to it stalling.

But the blame isn’t entirely on the crew, the agency said: “Contributing to the accident were ExecuFlight’s casual attitude toward compliance with standards; its inadequate hiring, training and operational oversight of the flight crew; the company’s lack of a formal safety program; and the FAA’s insufficient oversight of the company’s training program and flight operations.”

ExecuFlight said in a statement to the NTSB that it had a “robust safety culture” and had thoroughly investigated the pilots before hiring them.

But a former ExecuFlight pilot, Donnie Shackleford, testified to the NTSB that the man at the controls in Akron, Marchese, worried about being experienced enough to fly with the flight’s captain, Chavez.

“He didn’t feel like that, between the two of them, he didn’t feel like they had enough experience to fly together,” said Shackleford, whom ExecuFlight dismissed after a dispute about plane safety. “ … He said, ‘If they put me and Oscar together, we’re going to get ourselves killed.’ ”

Maintenance problems did not help. Sumwalt pointed toward the removal of a 300-pound piece of equipment that wasn’t noted on some records, which was later reinstalled without being noted on others. Records released in April show the airplane was trying to land in Akron about 600 pounds heavier than the pilots thought, and about 300 pounds heavier than the manufacturer recommended as the maximum landing weight.

Cockpit recordings released by the NTSB captured Chavez coaching Marchese during the fatal plunge. The board, however, said Chavez should have stepped in, as he was the lead pilot.

“You can’t keep decreasing your speed,” he can be heard saying to Marchese. “If you keep decreasing your speed … we gonna stall.”

About two minutes later Chavez warns Marchese again. “You’re diving. You’re diving. Don’t dive. Two thousand feet per minute, buddy,” Chavez said on the recording. That’s twice the rate an aircraft should descend for a landing, and they were descending without a safe landing area in sight, the NTSB noted.

Chavez’ lax attitude toward protocol is representative of the parent company, ExecuFlight, the board said.

“We hope that this investigation will prevent such tragedies in the future,” said Christopher Hart, NTSB chairman.

Staff writer Julius Whigham II and staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Florida man allegedly stuffed puppies into pillow cases, left them in drain
Florida man allegedly stuffed puppies into pillow cases, left them in drain

A Florida man who allegedly stuffed six puppies into a drain was finally caught, deputies say.  Ernest Martin, 39, of Jacksonville, was arrested Saturday, but the incident occurred in September 2016, WJAX reported. A resident’s surveillance video captured Martin stuffing puppies into a culvert, according to WJAX.  “He throws...
NEW: Woman steals from car while its owners visit grandmother’s grave
NEW: Woman steals from car while its owners visit grandmother’s grave

A Florida woman is accused of stealing from a car while the vehicle’s owners visited a gravesite. According to WFTV, Lake County deputies are searching for a woman who they say stole two purses from a car parked outside the Lakeside Memory Garden cemetery in Eustis. Authorities say car’s owners were visiting their grandmother&rsquo...
UPDATE: Missing West Palm Beach 6-year-old boy found safe
UPDATE: Missing West Palm Beach 6-year-old boy found safe

Update, 4:10 p.m.: Caribbean Villas complex just after 2:45 p.m., police said. Download our PostNOW app to get the latest Breaking News Jacob, who is autistic, was last seen wearing a multicolored shirt with dark blue on the back of the shirt, white shorts and one blue shoe, specifically a Croc. Jacob is 4 feet tall and 35 pounds. Anyone...
Around town

OUTDOORS Guided paddle tours on the Loxahatchee River are available on weekends at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, 16450 SE U.S. 1. Standard parking fees are $6 per car. For information, call 772-546-2771. … Yoga on the beach is held Saturdays at 9 a.m. on the beach at A1A and Marcinski Road in Jupiter. Participants should bring a towel, water...
‘Obviously fake’ credit cards lands Florida trio in jail 
‘Obviously fake’ credit cards lands Florida trio in jail 

The plan of two Florida men looking to buy a Go Pro camera with a fake credit card went wrong when their crudely made cards were revealed as frauds. According to FLKeysNews, Brian Moreno Olivera, 25, of Hialeah, and Fernando Baez Romero, 25, of Miami, tried to buy two Go Pro cameras, worth $898, from a Divers Direct store in Key Largo on Saturday...
More Stories