Friday, July 13, 2012

Gulfstream G-IV, Universal Jet Aviation, N823GA: Fatal accident occurred July 13, 2012 at Le Castellet Airport (CTT), France

NTSB Identification: DCA12RA110 
14 CFR Non-U.S., Non-Commercial
Accident occurred Friday, July 13, 2012 in Le Castellet, France
Aircraft: GULFSTREAM GIV, registration: N823GA
Injuries: 3 Fatal. 

On July 13, 2012, at 3:18 pm local time, a Gulfstream GIV, N823GA, operated by Universal Jet Aviation, exited the left side of runway 13 at Le Castellet Airport (LFMQ), France. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and fire. The 3 crew members were fatally injured. The airplane was on a repositioning flight from Nice, France, with no passengers.

The accident is being investigated by the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation civile (BEA). As the state of design and manufacture of the airplane, the NTSB has designated a U.S. accredited representative to the BEA investigation.

All inquiries should be directed to:

Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la
Sécurité de l’Aviation civile
Bâtiment 153
Aéroport du Bourget
93350 Le Bourget

Gwendolyn Moore was killed July 13 in France when the private plane she was working on as a flight attendant crashed during an emergency landing.

Glynn Moore is still trying to come to terms that will never see or hear from his daughter, Gwendolyn Moore, again

Gwendolyn, or Gwen as Moore calls her, was killed July 13 in France when a private plane owned by Universal Jet Aviation crashed during an emergency landing. She was a flight attendant on the plane.

“This is something I never expected to happen,” said Glynn Moore, who lives in Shalimar. “I expect my grandparents and my parents to go before me, but not my 30-year-old daughter. When I first heard the news I was floored. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet.”

Initial reports indicated the pilot was trying to land the Gulfstream G-IV jet at a small airport in Le Castellet in southern France when it veered off the runway and crashed in a wooded area.

Gwen and the two pilots, 60-year-old David Popik and 24-year-old Robert Helton, were killed. They were the only people onboard.

French authorities in cooperation with the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Universal Jet Aviation provides charter flights and other aircraft services to businesses and individuals. It is based in Boca Raton and has offices in California, New Jersey and England.

Gwen had worked for Universal Jet Aviation for two years.

“She was a super positive person and really loved what she was doing,” said Michael McCauley, the company’s president. “We don’t know anything yet, but we’re trying to figure it out and get some plausible explanation as to what and where and why this happened.”

Gwen attended Fort Walton Beach High School for a year. She was living most recently in New Jersey.

Glynn Moore described her as someone who was up for any challenge, from riding on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to snowboarding.

“At first when I heard the news, it was like sudden impact,” said Moore, who works at The Cedars condominiums in Mary Esther. “Now I’m trying to stay occupied and not think about it, but I can’t get my mind off it. It’s like a rollercoaster.

“I wonder what went through their minds as it was happening. I couldn’t fathom,” he added. “I don’t think I want to know.”

Services for Gwen have not been scheduled. Moore said he and his family are still trying to bring her remains back to the United States. He said DNA sampling and other proof of identification is needed before they can bring her home.

“It could be another week or two,” he said. “I’m trying to get this process rolling so we can have the memorial and start dealing with this.”

Video:  Robert Helton is in the left seat, aircraft is N823GA.

South Florida pilots killed in France were trying to land at overflow airport 

 Two South Florida pilots who died last week when a jet veered off a runway and crashed in southern France were attempting to land at the small Le Castellet airport because there was no room to park the plane in Nice, the plane's owner said Thursday.

However, Boca Raton-based Universal Jet Aviation president Michael McCauley dismissed as "not a factor" the possibility that veteran pilot Dale Popik was unfamiliar with the airport or its runway. "He had landed there before," said McCauley.

Killed in the July 13 crash were Popik, 60, of Delray Beach, a pilot with American Airlines for more than 30 years when he retired in 2008, and co-pilot Robert Helton, 24, of Pembroke Pines.

Cabin aide Gwen Moore, 29, based in New Jersey, also died.
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Shortly before leaving for Le Castellet over the Bastile Day weekend, Popik and Helton landed the Gulfstream G-IV jet in Nice, where all the passengers got off, said McCauley.

It was routine to use Le Castellet airport for overflow parking on busy holiday weekends in the south of France, McCauley said.

"It's been a sad and shocking and tragic event," said McCauley. "We want to learn from this. Whether human or mechanical factors were involved, we don't know yet."

The crash is being investigated by French authorities in cooperation with the National Transportation Safety Board.

"The investigation will take many months," said McCauley. "Whatever comes out we will address with full force and with transparency."

A memorial mass for Popik is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Ascension Catholic Church, 7250 North Federal Hwy, Boca Raton. A celebration of his life will follow.

A celebration of Helton's life is scheduled for 7 p.m. on July 28 at the Littman Theater, 17011 NE 19th Ave., North Miami Beach.

Embry-Riddle grads killed in airplane crash in Southern France 

DAYTONA BEACH -- A recent graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University died "pursuing his passion" for flying when his plane crashed at an airport in France, his father said.

Robert Helton, 24, of Pembroke Pines, whose career was just getting off the ground, and Dale Popik, a 60-year-old seasoned pilot from Delray Beach, died when the twin-engine Gulfstream G-IV crashed Friday afternoon while attempting a landing at Le Castellet airport, near Toulon, southern France.

Both were Embry-Riddle graduates.

Helton was a 2010 graduate from Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach campus with a bachelor of science in aeronautical science, school officials and family members said.

Popik graduated in 1975 from one of Embry-Riddle's former worldwide campuses in the Miami-Homestead area with a bachelor of science in aviation management.

Helton's father, Michael Helton, said on Monday that flying "was his (son's) passion."

"Embry-Riddle was a great experience for him. It gave him a great opportunity and a great future," Helton said. "His entire experience there in Daytona was great."

Helton's mother, Lori, said her son flew while at Embry-Riddle and "landed his job as soon as he graduated."

Michael Helton said his son was a first officer, but that they could not comment further about the crash because of an ongoing investigation. "Our thoughts are with the families of Dale Popik and Robert Helton during this sad time," said ERAU spokeswoman Melanie Hanns.

The Associated Press reported a third American crew member on the plane, a 30-year-old woman, was killed, too, but her identity was not released.

The plane and crew, which was from Universal Jet Aviation, an executive jet service based in Boca Raton, reported no passengers on board. A company spokesman, Christopher Smith, said the company didn't have clearance to release the woman's name Monday.

Universal Jet Aviation President Michael McCauley told The News-Journal on Monday that both Popik and Shelton were pilots though he could not confirm who was flying the plane. Other south Florida news publications and television stations report a relative of Popik stating he was the pilot.

McCauley said the company is assisting the National Transportation Safety Board "to figure out what happened."

"It's very sad and we're shocked. Our primary focus now is to assist the families," McCauley said.

Company spokesman Smith said the manufacturer of the plane, Gulfstream Aerospace, is also working with investigators.

Another south Florida television station reported that Popik flew with a commercial airline for several decades and decided after retirement to go back to flying.

A French newspaper, Var-Matin, reported the plane veered off the runway and crashed at the end of the airfield in a patch of trees. The plane had taken off from Nice International Airport to retrieve passengers from Le Castellet airport, the paper reported.

The Sun Sentinel in South Florida also reported the French newspaper said the plane touched down at a high rate of speed and the airport director reported seeing "lots of smoke at the moment the plane went off the runway."

Downed Jet Regularly Stopped Off In Shannon 
The 25-year-old seater Gulfstream IV jet was one of three owned and operated by US based Universal Jet Aviation which also has an office in London.

The long range business jet is understood to have been repositioning from Nice to Le Castellet Airport between the cities of Marseille and Toulon in southern France when it careered off the end of the runway.

It arrived in Nice from Turkey and Greece in recent days according to records and last visited Shannon several times this year.

The jet crashed into a wooded area at the end of the runway while landing before bursting into flames.

Three Americans two men, aged 61 and 24, and a 30-year-old woman died in the crash. It's understood that all three were crew members and believed to be the pilot, co-pilot and cabin aide.

The airport, located in the heart of the French Riviera and the largest private airfield in the region, is frequently used by celebrities with homes in the area, as well as business people.

It's understood the jet had flown from Nice to Le Castellet to collect clients for an onward journey.

The same jet visited Shannon as recently as June 23rd having arrived from Opa-Locka Executive Airport in Miami Florida. The aircraft refuelled and continued east to an unknown destination in the early hours of the morning.

Records also show that the same plane visited Shannon on April 5th last on it's way back to Florida from Rotterdam.

Universal Jet Aviation confirmed it was one of their Gulfstream IV aircraft that crashed at Le Castellet.

"There were no passengers on board the aircraft although the flight crew was lost. We are cooperating with all investigative agencies. Our focus at this time is supporting the needs of the crew and their families," the company said.

Over 4,500 business jets stopped in Shannon last year while last month was the busiest in the the airport's history for executive jet traffic.

The aircraft stop at Shannon to avail of US Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance facilities as well as to refuel and take on catering.

The investigation continued Sunday into the plane crash in southern France that claimed the lives of three crew members, including two men from South Florida. 

Killed in the Friday crash of the Gulfstream G-IV jet were Dale Popik, 60, of Delray Beach and Robert Helton, 24, of Pembroke Pines.

Also killed when the plane went down while attempting to land in Le Castellet, France, was a third crew member, a 30-year-old woman. She remains unidentified.

"We really don't know what happened, other than they were on a charter flight, on their way to an airport to pick up some passengers," Lori Helton, the mother of Robert Helton, said Sunday.

She described her son as a very experienced pilot. "We are still very distraught over this," said Lori Helton. "He was our only son."

In Delray Beach, Popik's wife Danessa confirmed his identity while declining further comment.

Universal Jet Aviation, a Boca Raton-based aviation company, confirmed that the private jet was part of its fleet. Chris Smith, a company spokesman, said Sunday there were no passengers on board.

According to the online French newspaper Var-Matin, the plane touched down on the runway at a high rate of speed, raced by the control tower and veered left off the runway.

Pictures from the scene show charred remains of the wreck amid a small stand of trees well off the end of the runway. The tail section of the plane remains in tact, but the cockpit appears to have been destroyed.

In a videotaped interview posted by Var-Matin, airport director Francois Andre said he saw "lots of smoke at the moment the plane went off the runway."

  Andre said he rushed outside. "I saw the plane had already broken apart and burst into flames immediately," he said.

"[It was] a very violent fire. I went to the scene at the same time as firemen and specialists and I witnessed very violent explosions."

The bodies of the crew were recovered and taken to Marseilles for autopsies. The national police were to take custody of the plane's flight recorder, the paper said.

"We are cooperating with all investigative agencies," Universal said in a statement.  "Our focus at this time is supporting the needs of the crew and their families."

La Provence, a local newspaper, reported that a special air police unit of the National Gendarmerie based in Nice and a government bureau in Paris would be in charge of the investigation. 

Pembroke Pines, Florida,  man among three Americans killed in a plane crash in France 

A 24-year-old man from Pembroke Pines, Florida,  died in a plane crash in southern France, his family confirmed Saturday.

Michael Helton, father of Robert Helton, said that his son was part of three-person flight crew on board a Gulfstream G-IV that crashed while landing in Le Castellet France on Friday. Helton said the family had little information and declined further comment.

The Associated Press reported the crash on Friday evening, releasing photos of the plane crash. The three member crew also included a 60-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman. Their identities have not been released.

In a statement released Saturday, Universal Jet Aviation, a Boca Raton-based aviation company, confirmed that the private jet was part of its fleet. The company said there were no passengers on board.

“Our focus at this time is on supporting the families of our crew,” a spokesperson for the company said by phone.  The crash is under investigation. 

A private jet landing overran the runway at  Le-Castellet LFMQ and took fire immediately at 15:20 local (1320Z)
3 people on board, all American citizens. All dead.
2 pilots (age 60 and 24) and a stewardess (30).
The plane departed Nice airport LFMN and landed at Le-Castellet to pick up passengers.

LE CASTELLET, France (AP) — A French official says a private plane has caught fire and crashed on landing at Le Castellet airport in southern France, killing the three Americans on board.

Paul Mourier, prefect of the Var region where Le Castellet is located, said two men, aged 60 and 24, and a 30-year-old woman died in the Friday afternoon crash of the Gulfstream  from Nice. The victims, all burned, weren't identified.

Some 60 firefighters doused the flaming aircraft, which lost a wing on its landing approach. Five divers searched a nearby swamp to ensure there were no other victims.  An investigation into the cause of the crash on a windless day has been opened.