If you’ve been following this curious and bizarre incident which happened July 29, there’s been an update. Fresh news about the co-pilot who fatally bailed out without a chute, moments before the plane crash-landed. It makes a confusing event even more mysterious. Once again, the new information raises more questions than it provides answers.
Just before he bailed out
New information is out regarding Charles Hew Crooks, the 23-year-old co-pilot who bailed out and “fell to his death after getting off an aircraft mid-flight in North Carolina.”
According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation and Safety Board, he was reportedly “sick” and “visibly upset” immediately before “exiting the plane without a parachute.”
Two people were aboard the plane when it took off. It began as a routine day for the pilot and his second in command but didn’t end that way.
The body of Charles Crooks was recovered from some trees in the backyard of a home in Fuquay-Varina, about 18 miles south of Raleigh. It took police several hours to locate. Ever since, everyone has been wondering why he bailed. We still don’t really know but preliminary reports provide more insight.
It’s obvious that he was distressed about coming in for what both pilots already knew would be a crash-landing, at best. The possibility still exists that he decided to take his chances on his own, even without a chute.
Crooks was reportedly an experienced skydiver and it looks like he bailed out by the book. Maybe he hoped for something to break his fall on the way down, maybe aim for a swimming pool. All anyone can do is speculate, and that is already running rampant.
Operating as a skydiving flight
It was business as usual for the twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar, “being operated as a skydiving flight.” According to the NTSB, “it had already flown two skydiving runs and was on its way to pick up a third group.”
Things went south when co-pilot Crooks flew the plane on its descent to Raeford West Airport. On that approach, “the plane descended below the tree line and ‘dropped.‘” Nobody bailed out yet.
Crooks fought for control of the plane and managed to get it back up, but not before it bounced. “While attempting to get the plane climbing again, the right main landing gear ‘impacted the runway surface,’ causing a hard landing.” That’s when the more experienced pilot took over. “The pilot-in-command took over controls from Crooks, reached over 400 feet again and directed him to declare an emergency.”
In the moments before he bailed, Crooks took control of the radio, and asked traffic control for a diversion to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. That’s when they hit turbulence. About 20 minutes into the flight, Crooks “became visibly upset” about the hard landing. According to the report, the pilot testified “Crooks then opened his side cockpit window and ‘may have gotten sick,’ at which point the pilot-in-charge took over radio communications.”
The last thing the pilot needed at that point was someone flipping switches but “Crooks lowered the ramp in the back of the airplane, indicating he ‘felt like he was going to be sick and needed air‘” That’s when he bailed out. He “got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized, and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door.”
According to the pilot, “there was a bar that Crooks could have grabbed about 6 feet above the ramp, but he never saw Crooks grab it before exiting the plane. The pilot turned the plane around to search for Crooks and notified air traffic control about Crooks’ departure from the plane.” With damaged gear, the pilot still managed to bring the plane down safely.