April 2, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Gulfstream Aerospace, located in Savannah, Ga., has confirmed the crash of a Gulfstream G650 flight test aircraft at Roswell International Air Center, N.M., Saturday morning, April 2. Four lives were lost in the accident. The following statement was released by the company early Saturday evening:
“Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. confirmed today that a Gulfstream G650 crashed Saturday morning during takeoff-performance tests in Roswell, N.M. Two Gulfstream pilots and two Gulfstream flight-test engineers died in the crash. ‘Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who were lost,’ said Joe Lombardo, president, Gulfstream Aerospace. The accident is under investigation by Gulfstream, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration. ‘We are cooperating 100 percent with the investigation,’ Lombardo said.”
Experimental test pilots Kent Crenshaw and Vivan Ragusa and technical specialists David McCollum and Reece Ollenburg died in the accident. All four were residents of Savannah.
The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the accident.
“We mourn the loss of our colleagues and friends and extend our deepest sympathies to their families,” Lombardo said. “The Gulfstream team has already rallied to support the people these men left behind, and we know that the local and aviation communities will do the same. On their behalf, we ask for your kindness, support and understanding as they, and the rest of the Gulfstream family, grieve the passing of these fine professionals.”
FAA Southwest Region spokesman Lynn Lunsford told AOPA Pilot that the aircraft, N652GD, had just taken off when the right wing hit the ground. The aircraft crashed back to the runway, collapsing the gear, and burned. “The aircraft skidded for quite some distance,” Lunsford said. “It came to rest 35 to 40 feet from the tower.” Lunsford said the aircraft had been in the pattern for at least two hours. It was his understanding that the aircraft was conducting brake testing.
There are records of recent flights for the aircraft on FlightAware.
The new G650 is billed as the company’s “ultra large cabin, ultra high speed” model. It can carry a crew of four and eight passengers on a nonstop, 7,000-nautical-mile flight, according to the company’s website. It can cruise at Mach 0.85 on longer trips, or cover shorter distances at Mach 0.925. Rolls Royce BR725 engines rated at 16,100 pounds of thrust at takeoff power the aircraft.
The aircraft that crashed was one of the G650 models used for certification testing. One of the five test aircraft flew at near the speed of sound last year.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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