Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nine killed in three Hawker Beechcraft crashes in the past month (With Video)

News Center 16 is learning more information about the type of twin-engine jet that crashed Sunday and a recent history of crashes.

The plane is called a Hawker Beechcraft 390 Premier 1A. It has seating for six passengers and two pilots. According to a general aviation expert, there are about 300 in service worldwide.

In the past month, nine people have been killed, and five others injured, in three Premier 1A crashes.

The first happened on February 20 just outside Atlanta, Georgia.

Then on March 4, a second Hawker Beechcraft went down in France.

March 17 was when the same model aircraft flew into three houses here in South Bend after trying to land.

During a press conference Monday at the South Bend airport, the NTSB investigator in charge said his team is still gathering information about this particular aircraft and the circumstances surrounding any crashes in its history.

After two days North Iowa Street in South Bend has re-opened for traffic. While most eyes have been fixed on the plane that was lodged in this home, some are now focusing on the type of plane itself.

On February 20, a plane on approach to the Thomson-McDuffie County Airport four miles north of Thomson, Georgia, went down in a wooded area. Five members of a medical team died and two pilots were killed.

“It looks like it may have just overshot the runway, just barely missing a manufacturing building and crashing in the woods,” Sheriff Ronnie Williamson told NBC-affiliate WXIA that day.

The NTSB preliminary report said witnesses saw the pilot abort the landing and start a fly-around when the plane went down.

The language in that report is similar to what was said during Monday's press conference in South Bend.

“The aircraft did indeed make two approaches to land, followed by what we would constitute as a ‘go-around’ or an aborted landing, and during the second aborted landing attempt, the aircraft was observed to climb away, enter a bank and then shortly thereafter impact the residence,” said Andrew Todd Fox, NTSB lead investigator of the South Bend crash.

Twelve days later another Hawker Beechcraft jet experienced trouble shortly after taking off from Annemasse Airport in France.

The plane hit a house and crashed into a garden, sending a plume of black smoke into the sky. The pilot and co-pilot didn't survive.

A spokesperson for the NTSB said there is no evidence at this time connecting the three crashes.

“If we identify a fleetwide safety issue with an aircraft, we work very quickly and very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to issue any kind of rectifying, mitigating recommendations to make that process safer for the aircraft,” said Todd. “At this time, we are in the preliminary stages of this investigation, and we do not have any indication that we are going to be making any emergency recommendations at this time.”

NewsCenter 16 contacted Beechcraft, the company that manufactures the Hawker Beechcraft 390 Premier 1A to inquire about any known issues with the model, the exact number of planes in service, when the planes began being manufactured or whether there are plans to ground it in light of the three crashes in the past month. The company sent the following in an emailed response:

"Beechcraft is cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board and cannot comment due to the three ongoing active investigations."

NewsCenter16 hasn’t been able to obtain any additional information about the crash in France and preliminary findings of the investigation there.

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