Authorities in North Carolina are trying to figure out how and why the copilot of a CA 212 twin ended up falling into the backyard of a home in a suburb of Raleigh just before the pilot made an emergency landing at Raleigh International Airport. According to an ATC recording obtained by WRAL the unidentified pilot called ATC to report he was in trouble. “Emergency, we’ve lost our right wheel,” said the pilot in the recording. “We’d like to speak to Raleigh and make an emergency landing at Raleigh.” There is one published report the captain subsequently reported the other pilot had left the aircraft but the circumstances aren’t clear.

The aircraft, a 19-place STOL turboprop twin built by CASA (now Airbus) in Spain, went on to the airport to make a rocky but successful landing and skid into the infield about 3:20 p.m. Shortly after, first responders found the body of the copilot, Charles Hew Crooks, 23 in the backyard of a home in Fuquay-Varina. The pilot suffered minor injuries and was taken to a local hospital but released later that evening. The station interviewed Crooks’ father (his name wasn’t provided) and he did not know how his son left the aircraft. “I can’t imagine what happened,” his father said. “We’ll figure it out, I suppose.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. This article is a bit confusing. Since you wrote “the body” of the co-pilot was found I assume he’s dead?

    • Agree, that second paragraph is confusing. “The pilot suffered minor injuries…” <- that should be the second sentence in the paragraph, not stuck in the middle of two statements about the copilot. As written, it sounds like the pilot that fell to the ground suffered minor injuries. The copilot IS a pilot so the statement, as placed, is completely ambiguous.

  2. Having jumped from an in flight air plane, with said air plane being at some height and some speed, it would be reasonable to infer that he was dead. As the proverbial door knob.

  3. Not familiar with the aircraft. Could the copilot have been trying to somehow visually identify the status of the landing gear and maybe got caught too far out in the airstream?

    I know I was a little surprised when I let my iPhone get a little too far out the vent window in an Archer. I was using my right hand to point something out to the copilot who was flying, and not paying enough attention to my left hand that was holding the camera lens of the phone out the window. Phone looked very cool tumbling end over end in a ballistic arc to the ground after being pulled out of my hand.

    • > Could the copilot have been trying to somehow visually identify the status of the landing gear and maybe got caught too far out in the airstream?
      I’m looking at the pictures of the thing and yeah, could be.

    • I have a number of skydives from CASAs and your idea that the copilot went back with a lowered tailgate to check the gear is plausible. Low level turbulence could bounce you right off the tailgate and out. There is not any air flow blowing or sucking you out though.

  4. Again and again we understand that the (landing) pilot was treated and released & is “OK”. I’ve read and heard dozens of media “reports” on the incident — none, zero(!) have made any mention whatsoever of just asking the guy who survived “what the heck happened???”.

    • I agree, the pilot may be the only person knowing why his co pilot left his seat. We’ll know when the NTSB investigates and makes their initial and final report.

  5. CASA212 is a popular skydiving plane. Most people who fall out of them are wearing parachutes, though.

  6. From the other John K, watching the interview with Charles Crooks’ parents and hearing of his early enthusiasm for flying, I wondered if his enthusiasm led him too far out while doing a visual inspection of the landing gear. I’m truly sorry that this young person with the enthusiasm for aviation described by his parents met this end, regardless of the details.

  7. Flying a B-99 out of Mexico on a charter back the mid-70s, we had a passenger sitting by the entry door who fooled-around with the door-handle..when it suddenly un-latched…and the door flew open in-flight nearly sucking the pax out of his seat were it not for his very-loosely-fastened seat-belt. When the door of an airplane is opened in-flight it can be sucked open violently especially if it’s a rear-door aft of the tapering-fuselage-point. As a crewmember, I left the cockpit, admonished the passenger, then used the air-stair cables to pull the door closed…but it was only possible if the other pilot used rudder to “slip” the airplane creating air pressure to help get it completely closed. That pax had the fear-of-God on his face when that door nearly jerked him outside the aircraft.

  8. Probably leaning out the rear cargo ramp to get a look at the gear leg. It’s bumpy there in the afternoon. One good bump and an otherwise firm grip can be jerked free. Feel so sorry for that poor kid. Just getting into aviation and most likely had a great career ahead of him doing what he loved. Sadly, he was a bold pilot.

  9. The video doesn’t make sense. If he fell out before the aircraft touched down, that would mean it landed itself, but he couldn’t fall out after the aircraft veered off the runway, IT WAS ON THE GROUND. So, when exactly did he fall out or jump out.

  10. The “one published report” is pretty sloppy reporting and thinks that Co-Pilots are two pilots flying the airplane, not a PIC and a Co-pilot. The article has lead to suffering for the family I’m sure. Some as using to say that pilot intentionally jumped. Tragic story, very likely the pilot went aft to check on the gear and was unsecured and fell out. Note to self, the landing is the same if the gear is there or not. They knew it was damaged and “how” damaged doesn’t change the plan for the landing. Land on the left gear, keep the right wing up as long as possible and use rudder to keep it straight until you lose authority.

  11. Definitely a confusing batch of reports on this. Seems like what happened, as I understand it, was that following a “firm” touch & go at the small airport they operated out of, at least the right wheel and possibly the entire right main departed the aircraft. On the ‘go” they apparently somehow became aware of this, declared an emergency & headed for RDU to make a landing at an airport with emergency equipment. On the way it appears the co-pilot elected to lower the aft ramp and try to hang out far enough to visually check what the exact status of the gear was, as there apparently was no other way to get a view of it.

    • When I was a young man (when it never occurred to me how fragile life is, that even I was susceptible to injury/death) I used to drill holes, grind metal, etc. without wearing eye protection.

      Now that I’m officially an Old Man, I wear eye protection for even simple things. (As a piece of metal bounced off my safety glasses last week while performing a “menial” task.)

      There is no substitute for obtaining the humility that can only be learned with age. Which is one of the reasons why our Constitution has a minimum age for those who rule over us.

      And why airline companies should have same for pilots who hold our lives in their hands/yoke.