The pilots of a doomed Learjet that crashed while hurtling down a runway, killing four people in South Carolina, should have lifted off the runway rather than try to abort the takeoff, aviation experts said Wednesday.
The plane’s speed reached a point of no return and couldn’t safely stop after the crew reported hearing a suspected tire blowout, the experts said.
“Technically, they probably should have continued the takeoff because they were at a point at which they were not going to be able to stop on the remaining runway,” Eric Doten told The Associated Press after federal investigators on Wednesday issued a preliminary report on the crash that happened just before midnight Sept. 19.
Former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM, whose real name is Adam Goldstein, were severely burned in the crash, but have been released from the hospital and are expected to fully recover. Two of the musicians’ close friends and the plane’s pilot and co-pilot were killed when it shot off the end of the runway.
In the report issued Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board officials said the plane was traveling 156 mph just before the pilots tried to abort the takeoff. At that speed, the pilots had issued the “V1 speed callout,” which means the plane has reached the point where it has to takeoff, the experts said.
“At V1, you’re committed to taking off, so, there’s no more decision to be made,” said Bob Baron, president of The Aviation Consulting Group, a Myrtle Beach-based safety consulting company. “The basic premise is that, at V1 or above, you’re trained to go flying, whether you like it or not.”
There was very little rubber left on the jet’s wheels, and the brakes were severely damaged when the plane crashed, the NTSB report said. Had the pilots lifted off, they would have had to evaluate any possible tire damage and burn fuel to reduce the plane’s weight before landing, Baron said.
“Airplanes land with gear and tire problems all the time, and typically, the people in the airplane will walk away from it,” he said.
The report also included information on each pilot’s experience. Pilot Sarah Lemmon, 31, had logged more than 3,000 flight hours, 35 of those in Lear 60 planes. Co-pilot James Bland, 52, had about 8,200 hours of flight time, 300 of those on Lear 60 planes.