Pilots Ignored Safety Checks in Billionaire’s Plane Crash

Investigators of the private-jet crash that killed Lewis Katz discovered that the billionaire’s personal pilots rarely performed the required pre-flight safety checks when flying their boss around the country.

As reported in the Insurance Journal, only on two out of the last 176 trips of Katz’s Gulfstream IV did the pilots bother to fully test the flight controls before takeoff, according to preliminary reports released by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

While the NTSB has not yet assigned definitive blame for the cause of the crash, the hundreds of pages of documents it released indicate a scenario where two pilots repeatedly failed to follow basic safety procedures. That includes on their final voyage May 31, which ended with the plane skidding off a Boston-area runway and bursting into flames, killing the pilots, a flight attendant, Katz and three other passengers.

The documents show that the Gulfstream, made by a unit of General Dynamics Corp., is also under scrutiny. The plane’s flight controls were locked during takeoff, and the plane was designed so that it should have been impossible to attempt a takeoff.

Testing whether a plane’s flight controls are working is one of the most elementary safety checks, with pilots making sure all their controls can move normally before every takeoff. Katz’s pilots had done so only about 1 percent of the time, according to the NTSB.

In addition to the two full tests of the flight controls, the pilots did partial checks 16 times out of 176 flights examined, said the NTSB. Those checks were logged by a computer that records flight data.

On the night of the May 31 crash, Katz’s flight was delayed and the departure from Bedford, Massachusetts, for Atlantic City, New Jersey, didn’t happen until 9:39 p.m. The pilots began to move the plane without unlocking the flight controls, including panels at the rear of the jet that lift the nose at takeoff, according to the NTSB.