NTSB issues preliminary report on first Eclipse accident

August 13, 2008

The pilot of the Eclipse 500 that ran off the runway at the Brandywine Airport in West Chester, Pa., told the NTSB he was fast and high on the approach to the relatively short, narrow runway.

The accident, the first for the new model of the very light jet, caused substantial damage to the airplane but the pilot and the only passenger, his young daughter, were not hurt.

In its preliminary report, the NTSB said winds were calm and visibility at 10 miles as the pilot attempted the landing on the runway, which is 3,347 feet long and 50 feet wide. The runway has a one-degree downward slope. Trees at the end displace the threshold by 250 feet.

After touchdown, the pilot attempted to stop the airplane, but it skidded to the right and off the end of the runway, plummeting down a 40-foot embankment and across a road into trees 184 feet beyond the end of the pavement. The NTSB found no pre-impact mechanical problems.

In the accident, the airplane skin sustained multiple fractures and crush and compression damage to both the airframe and flight control surfaces. The nose landing gear separated from its attach point. Both main landing gear collapsed and penetrated the upper surface of the wing structure. The cabin, however, remained intact.

According to one source, the ATP-rated pilot had landed the Eclipse at the airport 60 times previously.