In a final accident report published on Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found decisions made by the pilot and copilot to be the probable cause of the 2019 crash of a Cessna Citation 680 business jet carrying former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife, Amy, and their 1-year-old daughter, Isla. According to the Board’s report (PDF), the aircraft came in too fast and bounced on landing, touching down a total of four times before the right main landing gear collapsed. Following the gear collapse, the plane slid off the runway, going through a ditch and a fence before coming to rest approximately 600 feet from the runway threshold.
The NTSB found that aircraft initially touched down at around 18 knots above Vref. Counter to the landing checklist, the pilot did not extend the aircraft’s speedbrakes on touchdown, instead electing to deploy thrust reversers. A go-around was attempted on the third bounce, but “electronic engine controls prevented the increase in engine power because the thrust reversers were not stowed.” The Board determined that the accident was the result of “the pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown …” Contributing factors included “the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown … and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”
As previously reported by AVweb, the accident occurred on Aug. 15, 2019, at approximately 3:40 p.m. local time at Tennessee’s Elizabethton Municipal Airport (0A9). Minor injuries were sustained by the three passengers onboard. The aircraft was destroyed in a post-crash fire.