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Earnhardt plane crash: NTSB says pilot tried to abort landing

John Thompson • Aug 26, 2019 at 8:14 AM

ELIZABETHTON — The pilots of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s jet tried to abort the landing and try again before the plane touched down a third time, the landing gear collapsed and the plane crashed Aug. 15 at Elizabethton Municipal Airport.

That information is included in an Aviation Accident Preliminary Report issued Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board on the Aug. 15 crash of the jet carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family.

The Cessna Citation Latitude crashed on landing after a 20-minute flight from Statesville, North Carolina. Earnhardt, his wife and their daughter suffered minor injuries.

According to the preliminary report, video showed the “right main landing gear collapsed and the outboard section of the right wing contacted the runway” shortly after the plane touched down a third time.

It ran out of paved runway and went through an open grass area, down a bank and through a chain-link fence, up another bank and came to rest on the edge of the five-lane state Route 91.

The preliminary report included information that Investigator in Charge Ralph E. Hicks discussed the Friday after the crash during a press conference outside the airport.

Hicks and the preliminary report both said that video of the landing showed the airplane bounced twice as it first touched down, then proceeded airborne a short distance until it touched down a third time with about 1,000 feet of runway remaining.

The runway is 4,500 feet and there is no control tower.

Hicks’ statement in the press conference and the preliminary report both indicated the right main landing gear collapsed.

One detail discussed on the preliminary report that was not a part of last week’s press conference was a statement by the pilots that they tried to take off again for another attempt to land after the second bounce, but the plane did not respond as expected, so they attempted the straight-ahead landing.

The report said the weather was fair at the time of the 3:37 p.m. crash and winds were calm. Both pilots were qualified to fly the plane.

The cockpit was undamaged by the fire that consumed much of the airplane after the crew and passengers escaped. Flight data stored in the plane’s control software was successfully downloaded after the crash.

A cockpit voice recorder was damaged in the fire, but was sent to an NTSB laboratory in Washington for an examination.

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