North Carolina co-pilot who jumped to his death from small aircraft was ‘visibly upset’


A copilot who jumped to his death from a small airplane in North Carolina was upset over damaging the craft’s landing gear during a failed runaway approach, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane’s pilot-in-command told federal investigators his copilot, Charles Hew Crooks, 23, ‘became visibly upset about the hard landing’ in the minutes after they diverted to another airport for an emergency landing, the report stated.

The copilot, who had been in control during the botched landing attempt, opened his side cockpit window at 3,500ft and ‘may have gotten sick,’ the report stated.

He then lowered the ramp in the back of the airplane, indicating that he felt like he was going to be sick and needed air.

The report said that Crooks ‘got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door.’

The incident occurred July 29 about 30 miles south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. At the time, Crooks did not have a parachute, and his body was found in a backyard in the town of Fuquay-Varina.

Charles Hew Crooks (pictured), 23, was the ‘visibly upset’ co-pilot on board the 1983 CASA C-212 Aviocar that made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International airport on July 29. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Crooks may have opened the plane’s cockpit at 3,500ft after telling the main pilot that he had been feeling sick

The small cargo plane, a 1983 CASA C-212 Aviocar, was forced to make an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after losing its right wheel during a previous landing attempt. The plane's co-pilot on board jumped from the aircraft after feeling 'upset' about the unsuccessful landing attempt

The small cargo plane, a 1983 CASA C-212 Aviocar, was forced to make an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after losing its right wheel during a previous landing attempt. The plane’s co-pilot on board jumped from the aircraft after feeling ‘upset’ about the unsuccessful landing attempt

A report from the NTSB, Crooks 'got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door.' Pictured: The aircraft that made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on July 29

A report from the NTSB, Crooks ‘got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door.’ Pictured: The aircraft that made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on July 29

Tuesday’s report said that the two pilots had been flying skydiving runs out of Raeford West Airport earlier in the day. They were descending toward the airport for a third run when the hard landing occurred.

Crooks was flying the approach when the aircraft ‘dropped’ and both pilots called for a go-around maneuver, the report stated. Before Crooks could initiate a climb, the right main landing gear impacted the runway.

The other pilot assumed the flight controls, the report stated. He directed Crooks to declare an emergency and request a diversion to Raleigh-Durham International Airport for landing.

The pilot told investigators that Crooks became upset ‘about 20 minutes into the diversion to RDU, after conducting approach and emergency briefings,’ the report stated.

This map shows the area of North Carolina that Crooks' body was found in after the plane he was piloting emergency landed at Raleigh-Durham airport

This map shows the area of North Carolina that Crooks’ body was found in after the plane he was piloting emergency landed at Raleigh-Durham airport

Crooks' body was found 30 miles south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport in the trees of a property in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina

Crooks’ body was found 30 miles south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport in the trees of a property in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina

Earlier this month, an audio recording of two unnamed Federal Aviation Administration employees telling a 911 dispatcher that the damaged plane was heading to the airport was released.

The pilot onboard had apparently told them at the time that Crooks had ‘jumped out of the aircraft,’ news outlets reported. 

‘We have a pilot that was inbound to the field,’ a controller told the 911 dispatcher, according to the audio file. ‘His co-pilot jumped out of the aircraft. He made impact to the ground and here are the coordinates.’ 

‘All we can do is recovery at this point,’ FAA personnel said at the end of the 911 call. ‘I mean, I don’t know. I’ve never heard…this is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard’ 

The call lasted about 13 minutes, with the controllers stating several times that the co-pilot had jumped.

Wake County Emergency Management Chief of Operations Darshan Patel said the initial 911 call prompted the search for Crooks.

The airplane also had substantial damage to its fuselage, the National Transportation Safety Board specified in its report.

The airplane had damage to its fuselage and its landing gear, the National Transportation Safety Board also confirmed in its report

The airplane had damage to its fuselage and its landing gear, the National Transportation Safety Board also confirmed in its report

Hew Crooks’, the 23-year-old’s father – said that flying was his son’s ‘lifelong dream’. He said his son was a former flight instructor and was certified to fly in all types of conditions

The plane’s pilot in command, whose name has not been released, sustained minor injuries. He was taken to Duke Hospital before eventually being released. He is in good condition. 

In a 40-minute exchange between the unidentified pilot and air traffic control, there’s oddly no mention or hint of Crooks falling from the plane.

The pilot can be heard saying: ‘Emergency, we’ve lost our right wheel. We would like to proceed to Raleigh and make a landing at Raleigh.’

He adds: ‘We have two persons on board. We have enough fuel on board that will last us for the next four hours.’

Air Traffic control responds: ‘Raleigh-Durham Airport or Raleigh-General?’ ‘Rogers resume all navigation to Raleigh-Durham Airport.’

‘More clarification, did you try landing on Raeford West?’ he asks. ‘Did it [the wheel] fall off while still in the air?’

‘We were attempting to land,’ the pilot said. ‘We made contact with the ground and had a hard landing and decided to go around and at that point we lost the wheel.’

When air traffic control questioned how they intended to land, the pilot said: ‘Going to go in as slow as we can and I guess we are going to put it on the belly.’ He then repeated that the plane’s right wheel had fallen off.

Crooks was a graduate from Bucknall University, where he obtained a degree in Political Science before going onto obtain his piloting license

Crooks was a graduate from Bucknall University, where he obtained a degree in Political Science before going onto obtain his piloting license

Father Hew Crooks (left) and mother Kate Crooks (second from left) with their son, pilot Charlie Crooks

Father Hew Crooks (left) and mother Kate Crooks (second from left) with their son, pilot Charlie Crooks

Multiple law enforcement agencies were standing by once the plane hit Runway 5R-23L at Raleigh-Durham International Airport around 2:40 p.m.

But there was one person on the plane, with no sign of Crooks, the second co-pilot.

The family living on the property of where Crooks was found later told local news outlets they heard a loud thud and called police. 

Crooks, the 23-year-old’s father, said flying was his son’s ‘lifelong dream’ and that he was a former flight instructor who was certified to fly in all types of conditions. 

Crooks told WRAL that Crooks had recently told him how ‘he wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world. He loved where he was.’

The aircraft was owned by Colorado-based Rampart Aviation. The company didn’t respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment. Crooks started working at the company five months ago, according to his LinkedIn.

The 10-seater plane, a CASA C-212 Aviocar, made in Spain in 1983, wasn’t making a commercial flight at the time of the incident.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk