Copilot ‘Jumped’ From Raleigh-Bound Aircraft: 911 Tape


The pilot of a twin that made an emergency landing at Raleigh (RDU) International Airport in North Carolina last week reportedly told the tower his copilot jumped from the plane at 3500 feet about 14 miles from the airport. The new information was contained in a recording of a 911 call placed by FAA employees in the airport tower. “We have a pilot who was inbound to the field. His copilot jumped out of the aircraft. He made impact to the ground and here are the coordinates,” one of the tower employees tells the 911 dispatcher. The body of Charles Hew Crooks, 23, was found about four hours later in a Raleigh suburb.

Police and federal authorities have not released further details on the circumstances of incident. The unidentified pilot of the CA-212, a small turboprop cargo aircraft, headed for Raleigh after the right landing gear of the plane was damaged while operating at a small airport south of Raleigh. The aircraft landed safely and the pilot suffered only minor injuries. The NTSB and FAA are both investigating.

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.

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  1. Juan Browne posted a plausible explanation of what happened on his blancolirio channel on YouTube. Rather than jumping he explains how the copilot may have been trying to examine the right main landing gear from the rather short ramp from the rear of the airplane.

    • I agree very irresponsible reporting by this gent. The headline could have read “accident or intentional” but making it sound like the reporter knew this gent jumped is part of today’s headline BS news.

      Sadly this is one of the hundreds of reasons people can no longer trust any news media or reporting. The fact remains a Co-Pilot fell to his death and the investigation remains open.

      • The story isn’t about the incident itself.

        It is about the 911 call – as cited in the headline – in which the dispatcher quotes the pilot as saying that the copilot jumped.

        Purely informational with no suggestion at all that the reporter either agreed or disagreed with the jumped vs. fell theory.

        • Thanks, Rush. I thought I was the only one who actually read the whole article.

          Sadly, such an ability seems to be in short supply these days.

      • +1

        Even if the reporter is simply reporting what the pilot said to 911, the implication (i.e., clickbait headline) is still there, so I agree with you.

    • I disagree with Juan’s theory that the co-pilot was trying to view the right main from the ramp. It appears from Juan’s video that to see the right main from the ramp, one would need to be half way down the ramp and just about “hanging in the breeze”. I think a more plausible explanation is that the co-pilot was trying to view the right main from the door located in the right side of the aircraft, just aft of the cockpit. I’m told by friends who have flown the CASA that, although difficult, this door can be forced open in flight far enough to view the right main gear.

      At this time, I don’t buy the suicide theory.

      Does anyone on this forum know whether or not the pilot has made a statement to the FAA/NTSB, or has “lawyered up” and is not speaking?

      • My question is, “Why was the pilot turned around watching the co-pilot fiddle around rather than focusing on flying the plane during this emergency?”

        • A missing wheel (or gear leg) on a fixed gear aircraft is hardly an “emergency” in cruise flight requiring 100% focus and concentration on keeping the airplane straight and level.

          Landing however, is another story.

  2. Unless youtubers are officially part of the NTSB, it’s all speculation without proof. Blaming media staffed by non aviation experienced writers can sway opinions without investigative resources the NTSB brings to bear in these matters, furthering idle speculation thru no fault of their own.

    I can speculate as another armchair quarterback whether as a pilot or not but prefer to wait for at least an initial report from the NTSB or wait longer for the final report. The only facts are this airplane attempted a landing elsewhere, damaged its landing gear then flew on to Raleigh, co pilot left aircraft miles away from Raleigh at around 3500 feet agl and lone pilot landing a damaged a/c. The pilot is the only survivor and knows what occurred.

  3. Sorry, I disagree, there is no way this young man would have purposely jumped. He was an IFR and flight instructor pilot. No pilot would do that, especially with a perfectly good flying plane, with or without landing gear.
    Well, if others theory is correct, I’m glad he wasn’t piloting a commercial airliner.

  4. Just feels like something is wrong with this story. Why would the locals withhold the name of the “surviving co pilot” ?

        • Police here and in NS are tough on fending off media demanding details. Jerk RCMP commissioner pressured police in NS shooting spree case, scummy Prime Minister wanted information for political gain.

          Families first is policy of police here and in Nova Scotia. Then family may ask police not to release names.

          Survivor in the crew may want to avoid media jackals hounding him, NTSB wants first access to him to interview him before memory gets confused which can happen, local coroner probably willing to wait.

  5. Sorry, total BS.

    This explanation is completely against all knowable facts. Charlie Crooks was apparently quite happy with his life, his career as a pilot. Further, he was a knowledgeable, by-the-book CFI. Unless he became completely panicked and unhinged to the point of complete irrationality, there’s no reason why someone with such training would jump out of an airplane to avoid an **highly** survivable emergency landing.

    Most likely his Co-pilot (assuming he was senior to Charlie) ordered him to look directly at the gear. Door open, Bernoulli principle takes over and sucks him out…tragedy. But not suicide. The pilot was most likely mistaken in his assessment of what happened. Or quite possibly he was covering his ass because he asked, or ordered, his copilot to do something patently unsafe. It’s telling that we haven’t heard from him (assume it’s a him) yet.

    Full disclosure, I went to college with the pilot’s dad, whom I was not close with but knew to be a kind and pleasant person who was well liked. Great guy. Horrible tragedy for all.

    • You mean the captain either asked him or he volunteered to look at the gear. Probably not tied off as he should have been. Need to look at the training provided by the company that owns the aircraft.

  6. Very bad reporting. The plane was in distress, the door was apparently open in the back for skydivers. The copilot went back to check on the missing landing gear. From there we have no idea what happened. It was apparently turbulent so he could have lost his footing and gone out the rear or maybe life was to much and he took a swan dive. To early to tell anything.

    • What is the ‘bad’ reporting? The article is quoting the 911 tape. The Raleigh airport controller is repeating what the pilot told him to the 911 operator. The reporter is not drawing a conclusion, he’s reporting the story.

      • Is the controller repeating what the pilot told him or, is the controller telling the 911 operator ether the best way to convey the message and/or what the controller think he heard?

        Any audio from the pilot to ATC available?

        • Listening to the 911 tape (link in the article above), the pilot told the controller.

          But yes, I’d like to hear the ATC transmission itself, too.

      • Everybody needs to re-read what the article writer wrote, correctly reporting what the audio recording shows – the person speaking to 911 in the call is “Raleigh airport,” not the pilot. This is reported in several places as a tower controller and if you listen to the 14m tape to its conclusion, you’ll hear the caller say We’re FAA” and confirm that they’re at RDU.

        Now we all know that the more people relaying information, the more garbled it gets. I don’t yet know whether the pilot reported that he jumped, or what, to controllers. VAS Aviation hasn’t published that tape, so for me it will have to wait until it comes out in the investigation.

        However I do know that it was a hot summer day, and around RDU that means lots of bumps. I also know that the tiny cabin windows in the CASA do not allow you to see the landing gear. Opening the RH door against 100 kt slipstream would likely be impossible, but looking around the corner from the open hatch…?

        Bumps + leaning out + slipstream=terrible tragedy. I can too easily see myself as that young man, trying hard to get the info. Makes me awfully sad. RIP.

    • There have been pilots without sense, but someone herein attests to this one’s record.

      LG probably hard to see on that airplane design.

      Question is how crew knew they’d lost a wheel.
      And whether or not wanted to confirm gear retracted for belly landing (that’s a _guess_) though flyby of tower would help I expect.

      • And I ask the poster why he thinks the gear would be visible from the cargo ramp at the back of the fuselage, and how easy he thinks it is to slide out the horizontal ramp if deceased was trying to look at gear from viewing port well forward of it.

    • or, the pilot “goofing off” smacked that plane onto the ground and ripped that right main gear off, the co-pilot is the only other witness to this intentional destruction of company property. Say’s he is going to report the pilot to the company and get him fired. A fight ensues and he gets thrown out the back…….The pilot now paniced says co-pilot “jumped”. Instead of saying over the radio “he fell”.

      So can this be a Small screen movie” or will it go straight to streaming?

  7. I live near the home base of the aircraft and know its operator, a very solid company with terrific employees and close ties to Ft. Bragg military aviation. I doubt seriously this was suicide. More likely it was a bad decision under the duress of an equipment failure. Been there. Let’s take a deep breath and let the truth be told. It’s very tragic for everyone around here who know the company and its people.

  8. I’m not going to conclude on what happened. But based on what’s been reported in this article something doesn’t add up.

    If you’re the pilot flying and ask your copilot (or he volunteers) to check the wheel from an opening in the aircraft, would you report that he ‘jumped’ out of the plane? Seems to me he should say he ‘fell’ or there was an accident.

    As others suggest, wait and see what gets discovered.

    RIP to the young man who lost his life.

  9. Hey AvWeb editors. Let this family grieve in peace. Turn the comments section off for this article. Delete the existing comments, including mine.

  10. Come on. Non-pilots & reporters frequently mangle aviation information. Imagine someone blended/mangled the terms “jump plane” & “co-pilot” & “fell” into the notion the co-pilot jumped at these coordinates.

    Occum’s Razor dictates the most likely explanation is the co-pilot was trying to examine the right gear from the extended jump ramp while not being tethered to the airframe when he fell.

    In the military, crew not wearing a harness attached to the airframe when the ramp is extended in flight is a punishable ucmj offense, both for the load specialist & the aircraft commander.

    Not the tether:

    • My only “tethered in the door” memory was a contrast in sensibilities by today’s standards. Time: 1950’s. Place: C123 over the beautiful azure Caribbean Sea. Memory: Crew chief having two of us (tethered) youngsters dump two garbage cans of mixed trash out the open rear personnel door whi. Today the dumping act would be the more likely UCMJ offense.

  11. If “jumped” originated with the pilot, likely in the panicky confusion of realizing Crooks had departed the aircraft he just blurted out the first word that came to mind. Once uttered, however, it became “legitimate news” for reporting. Accept it as part of the fog that so often accompanies the instant news system.

  12. Pretty quick thinking on the pilot; dealing with an emergency, talking to ATC, flying the airplane, and then the wherewithal to jot down the lat/long where the co-pilot departed the aircraft.

  13. The truth will become known soon enough–what we need to focus on is the tragic loss of a fellow aviator with a seemingly bright future. Almost every day it seems that I read about another tragic aviation accident, often involving fatalities, and the brain trust is quick to judge the actions (or non-actions) of our departed brothers and sisters before the facts are known.

    May the young man be in a better place now and condolences to his family and friends.