Excel-Jet Sues FAA Over Sport-Jet Crash

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When the Sport-Jet prototype crashed during a test flight in 2006, it wasn't due to any flaw with the aircraft or a mistake by the crew, says Excel-Jet in a suit filed against the FAA. It was because air traffic controllers cleared the jet to take off behind a large commercial aircraft (a deHavilland Dash 8) in violation of mandatory separation requirements. The company on Wednesday said it filed the suit in an effort to prove that its airplane and pilot were not at fault. On June 22, 2006, the Sport-Jet rolled aggressively to the left immediately after liftoff and crashed. The company has long contended that wake turbulence was the cause, but the NTSB report, completed in April, found "it is most likely that the wake vortices were neither strong enough nor close enough to the Sport-Jet to cause the violent roll to the left." The NTSB cited "a loss of control for an undetermined reason" as the probable cause of the accident. Excel-Jet now says it has no option but to initiate legal action against the FAA in an effort to prove that there was no fault with the aircraft or pilot.

"Test pilots James Stewart and Ron McElroy had accumulated 24 hours of virtually flawless flight testing," Bob Bornhofen, president of Excel-Jet, said in a news release. "The Sport-Jet had explored the majority of its flight envelope without problems." Stewart, who was flying at the time of the crash, survived the crash without injury. The company is at work on a second prototype, which it expects to fly sometime next year.