In December 2014, a plane stalled during an approach to Montgomery County Airpark and crashed into the home of the Gemmell family. Marie Gemmell, 36, died as she tried to protect her children Cole, 3, and 1-month-old Devin from the smoke and fire when the plane struck their home. The two children also died.
The family’s father Ken Gemmell and an older daughter, Arabelle, were not home during the crash.
The pilot, Dr. Michael Rosenberg, 66, and two others on the plane, David Hartman, 52, and Chijioke Ogbuka, 31, also were killed in the crash. Rosenberg was founder and CEO of Health Decisions, a clinical research organization in Durham, North Carolina.
The plane had flown from Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and was supposed to land at Montgomery County Airpark.
According to the NTSB report, Rosenberg failed to turn on crucial deicing equipment and skipped pre-flight checks, which led to the deadly jet crash.
The NTSB issued three recommendations Tuesday: Two focused on developing automated alerts for pilots of small jets to remind them that deicing equipment should be activated, and a third focused on training.
“Lives depend on pilots’ actions,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said. “Our own lives, the lives of our passengers, and the lives of people on the ground.”
There were signs the Rosenberg was rushing before takeoff and that he did not take enough time to do full pre-flight checks.
According to NTSB investigators, pilot miscalculations, the wrong flap settings, and the failure to activate deicing systems caused the plane travel more than 30 knots slower than it should have been.
By the time automated stall warnings sounded, it was too late.
Robert Sumwalt, a member of the NTSB, said that Rosenberg had been involved in a prior incident in March 2010 and said that in 2011 the pilot had violated temporary flight restrictions in restricted airspace. Sumwalt did not provide further details about the incidents during a hearing Tuesday.
Rosenberg had piloted a plane that crashed in Gaithersburg on March 1, 2010, WTOP has reported.
Investigators said the airpark was not to blame for the crash but said air traffic controllers should have communicated two reports of icing in the area to pilots prior to the crash.
Story and photo gallery: http://wtop.com
Ice on the wings brought down a twin-engine private jet that crashed into a Montgomery County house in 2014, killing three people onboard and a mother and two children who lived in the house, according to the findings in a detailed report released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday.
If the pilot, Michael Rosenberg, had turned on the plane’s de-icing system before he approached Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, he probably would have received a stall warning in time to avoid crashing into a development a half-mile from the runway, the agency said.
Rosenberg, 66, two of his passengers and the mother, Marie Gemmell, 36, and her children died when the plane crashed into the house and exploded in flames Dec. 8, 2014.
The NTSB said that “weather data indicate that the accident flight encountered clouds and was exposed to structural icing conditions while descending into the Gaithersburg area. There were numerous reports of ice from pilots flying in the area, and the accident pilot indicated that he was still in the clouds almost 15 minutes after entering them.”
The NTSB report said “had the ice protection been activated the pilot would have received an aural warning of impending stall about 20 seconds earlier.”
The Embraer EMB-500/Phenom 100’s twin jet engines continued to function normally, but the plane slowed too dramatically to reach the runway. With its flaps extended and landing gear down on final approach, the plane should have been flying at 120 mph. The cockpit data recorder showed it was going 101 mph in the final seconds of flight.
As it approached the Gemmell home, the plane went into an aerodynamic stall, with its tail sharply down and nose elevated. At that angle, normal air flow to keep it aloft ceased, and the plane lost its ability to fly.
In the final 20 seconds before the crash, according to the cockpit voice and data recorder, an automated warning in the cockpit chanted “stall-stall, stall-stall” 13 times in staccato rhythm.
One of his passengers responded, “Oh, no!” while the other said, “Whoa, Whoa.”
The plane was completing a bumpy 57-minute flight from Chapel Hill, N.C., near the Durham headquarters for Rosenberg’s medical research firm.
As it flew through Northern Virginia and into Maryland, other pilots were reporting ice attempting to form on their wings as they flew through clouds between 4,000 feet and 5,500 feet altitude.
Rosenberg turned on the plane’s de-icing system for more than two minutes as it reached its 23,000-foot cruising altitude, but then he flicked if off again for the remainder of the flight.
It remained off as he began to descend toward Gaithersburg, despite flying through clouds again.
The NTSB said that may have been a fatal mistake: “That puts the airplane in visible moisture, an essential element for ice, for approximately 15 minutes.”
Rosenberg was a highly qualified pilot, with 4,500 hours logged in control of an aircraft. He was certified as a commercial pilot and as a flight instructor. He also was rated to fly the Phenom, a sophisticated six-passenger jet that costs more than $4 million and can fly in excess of 400 mph.
But the 2014 incident was the second time that Rosenberg crashed while attempting to land at the Gaithersburg airport. Four years earlier, stall warnings sounded as he touched a single-engine turboprop plane down on the runway. When the plane drifted to the left side of the 75-foot-wide runway, Rosenberg attempted to lift off again to circle the airport for a second landing attempt.
Instead, the plane went about 100 feet to the left and crashed into trees. He escaped with a minor injury. The NTSB concluded that the cause was pilot error.
More than 1,000 small planes crash in the United States every year, and hundreds of those crashes result in fatalities, but few achieve the horrible distinction of what happened in Gaithersburg on the Monday morning of Dec. 8, 2014.
The calls began flooding into the 911 dispatcher at 10:42 a.m.
“We heard a giant explosion. . . . It looks like a house is on fire. . . . We got some people running over there to see if people are okay.”
People were not okay.
Rosenberg and his passengers — David Hartman, 52, and Chijioke Ogbuka, 31 — were dead. And a fire, helped along by an explosion of jet-fuel, was closing in on Marie Gemmell, 36, her son, Cole, 3, and infant, Devin. They were huddled in a second-floor bathroom — one child in Gemmell’s arms, the other tucked between her legs.
Small planes have crashed into houses or buildings in the United States over 110 times since 2000, but most of the more than 120 deaths have been pilots or passengers, not people in the sanctuary of their home.
Another call came into 911 at 10:44 a.m.:
“I just saw a jet hit a house near Montgomery Airport. When he came in on final [approach], he flamed out and went straight down into that house.”
The four-bedroom house at 19733 Drop Forge Lane sits on a cul-de-sac a bit more than a half-mile from the end of the airport runway. It is in Hunters Woods, one of many neighborhoods that developed over the years around an airport that was surrounded by farmland when it opened in 1959. The frame house with white siding, a two-car garage, a deck in the back and a tree planted in the front, was built in 1982.
Two years later, after several fatal plane crashes, a headline in The Washington Post read, “Some critics say it’s an accident just waiting to happen.” The 1984 article quoted a man who lived nearby: “It’s inevitable that a plane will fall out of the sky.”
That did not happen with the tragic consequences that the man envisioned until 30 years later. People who live in Hunters Woods have developed a certain expertise about small planes after years of watching them take off and land.
One of them was a man who was standing in his driveway and saw the jet go down. His call to 911 gave the first inking of what had gone wrong aboard the plane:
“I watched it go over. It was wobbling from side to side.”
The blue-and-white wreckage of the airplane tumbled into the front yard. The house, as firefighters are prone to say, was “fully engaged” by flames. Gemmell and her children were overcome by smoke and died.
Story, photos and comments: https://www.washingtonpost.com
NTSB Docket And Docket Items: http://dms.ntsb.gov
The Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce honored first responders on Aug. 14 at its annual public safety awards.
Members from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Paramedic Engine 728, City of Gaithersburg Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department 5th and 6th District Stations, and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office were recognized for their bravery and commitment to save lives and keep the community safe.
In this MyMCMedia Extra, Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman talks about the actions from first responders after a downed aircraft in the residential neighborhood off of Snouffer School Road in the Gaithersburg area killed a mother, two children, and three men who were aboard the airplane.
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 08, 2014 in Gaithersburg, MD
Aircraft: EMBRAER EMB-500, registration: N100EQ
Injuries: 6 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On December 8, 2014, about 1041 Eastern Standard Time (EST), an Embraer EMB-500 Phenom 100, N100EQ, impacted terrain and houses about 0.75 miles short of runway 14 while on approach to Montgomery County Airpark (GAI), Gaithersburg, Maryland. The airline transport rated pilot and two passengers were fatally injured as well as three persons on the ground. The airplane was destroyed during the impact and ensuing fire. Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and the flight was operating on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The airplane was registered to and operated by Sage Aviation LLC., of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The flight originated from Horace Williams Airport (IGX), Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with GAI as its intended destination.
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Baltimore FSDO-07
(The audio was posted by news helicopter pilot Brad Freitas)