PHILADELPHIA — Pilots employed by Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz rarely conducted full preflight checks before taking off in his private jet, and didn't do so the night it crashed and killed seven people, according to documents made public Wednesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board released more than 800 pages of information about last year's accident at Hanscom Field in Massachusetts, including a transcript of the cockpit voice recorder.
Last June, the NTSB issued a preliminary report indicating a possible problem with the gust lock system on the Gulfstream IV, which protects aircraft components from wind damage while planes are parked.
The cockpit voice recorder captured one pilot repeating "lock is on" several times, followed by "I can't stop it" and "oh no no" as the aircraft sped toward the end of the runway, then fell into a gully and burst into flames. Katz, three of his friends, both pilots and a flight attendant died in the May 31 accident.
The plane would have been unable to take off had the lock been engaged, according to aviation experts. But the crew might not have been aware of the issue without a flight check.
The material released Wednesday included an analysis of the plane's "quick access recorder" to determine whether the pilots regularly made preflight checks of various control systems. The device recorded two complete and 16 partial checks in the past 176 flights, according to the report.
It's possible the crew performed cursory control checks that did not register on the quick access recorder, said John Hansman, a pilot and aeronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But, he said, there's "clearly a pattern of them not executing the full recommended procedure."
On the night of the crash, the cockpit conversation includes none of the traditional language used during such checks, said aviation safety consultant John Goglia, a former member of the NTSB.
A final report on the accident's cause is pending. The NTSB did not make members available for interviews.
Katz was a philanthropist and businessman who once co-owned the New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils.
He had brought three friends to Massachusetts for an event at the Concord home of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. They were attempting to return to New Jersey when the crash occurred.
Killed along with Katz were Anne Leeds, a 74-year-old retired preschool teacher; Marcella Dalsey, the director of Katz's son's foundation; and Susan Asbell, 67, the wife of a former New Jersey county prosecutor.
The crew members who died were chief pilot James McDowell, co-pilot Bauke "Mike" de Vries and flight attendant Teresa Benhoff.