Passengers: “Chunks Of Slush” Falling From Plane


NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol told NTSB investigators that “chunks of slush” slid from the top of the chartered Challenger 601 he was aboard as it tried to take off from Montrose Airport in Colorado on Nov. 28, 2004. The temperature in Montrose was just below freezing and it was snowing. Although other aircraft were being de-iced, the pilots of the Ebersol charter didn’t ask for the service — evidence suggests the crew visually checked the wings and turned the anti-ice system on. However, a switch to a 7,500-foot runway forced the pilots to change their original takeoff run calculations (from 8,000 feet) to make the numbers work. According to 180 pages of documents released by the NTSB last Thursday, the plane got briefly airborne before crashing off the end of the 7,500-foot runway, killing Ebersol’s 14-year-old son Teddy, the pilot and a flight attendant. The first officer, Ebersol, and another son, Charlie (who acted to save his father and searched for his brother), were seriously injured. Cockpit voice recorder transcripts quoted in the documents show that pilot Luis A. Polanco-Espiallat and first officer Eric Wicksell both appeared to visually inspect the aircraft’s wings before takeoff and that the anti-ice system had been turned on. Two months after the crash, the FAA issued a bulletin calling for a physical inspection of the wings for ice. The plane arrived that morning from Van Nuys, Calif., and Ebersol’s wife, actress Susan Saint James, and another passenger got off. They initially planned to use the longer of Montrose’s two runways (10,000 feet) but according to an interim factual report issued by the NTSB, the plow operator on the runway heard their radio call and reported he was working on that runway. The pilot opted for a 7,500-foot runway (it was being plowed, too, but the operator got off when he saw the plane getting ready to take off as he didn’t have radio contact with the plane).