ANCHORAGE – The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a safety alert reminding mechanics and pilots alike to double check flight systems before takeoff, and highlighted cases like that of an Anchorage man who died in a crash in 2014 where elevator controls that were not properly installed.
Charles Hancock died just moments after he took off from Merrill Field last July 2, 2014. His plane slammed nose first into the ground at the airport, after it went into a steep climb. Federal investigators said the plane’s elevator controls – which affect how a plane climbs and descends — had been installed incorrectly, causing the plane to go in the opposite direction than commanded.
The NTSB has cited pilot and mechanical error as possible factors contributing to the crash. It’s unclear to investigators if Hancock performed a pre-flight checklist before he took off on his trip. Flight instructors said some pilots have become complacent when it comes to doing the checklist, a big reason why the NTSB issued the safety alert for general aviation pilots in Alaska and the rest of the United States.
“When they have their own aircraft and they’re very familiar with it, and been flying it for a long time, sometimes, they will just assume the aircraft is in the same configuration they left it in,” said Jamie Patterson-Simes, owner of Sky Trek Alaska Flight Training, LLC.
The safety alert is not just for pilots. The safety alert includes mechanics, who are advised to do such things as understand how the flight systems work. John Pratt, the owner of Pratt Aviation Services, is one aviator who has worked on planes for decades.
“If you hook something up incorrectly, and didn’t check it yourself, and understand what you should be seeing, then you may have a problem,” Pratt said.
The NTSB has not said when it will release its final report that will include what caused the 2014 crash.