On Saturday, April 2nd, a Gulfstream G650 flight test aircraft crashed during takeoff-performance tests at the Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico. FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the aircraft had just taken off from Roswell’s main runway when the tip of the plane’s right wing brushed the ground. The pilot tried to recover, but the aircraft’s landing gear collapsed, sending the plane sliding. “The aircraft skidded for quite some distance,” Lunsford said. “It came to rest 35 to 40 feet from the tower.” The plane burst into flames just yards short of the air traffic control tower. Previously, it had been in the pattern for at least two hours and was believed to be conducting brake testing at the time of the accident.
There were four people aboard the aircraft, all confirmed dead on scene – experimental test pilots Kent Crenshaw and Vivan Ragusa and technical specialists David McCollum and Reece Ollenburg. All four were residents of Savannah, GA, where Gulfstream is based.
“We mourn the loss of our colleagues and friends and extend our deepest sympathies to their families. 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,” said Joe Lombardo, president of Gulfstream Aerospace. “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.”
Gulfstream, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Federal Aviation Administration are all investigating the accident. The G650 model is Gulfstream’s newest luxury plane, set for delivery sometime next year, and the aircraft that crashed was being used for certification testing. At the time, there were five test aircraft, one of which flew at near the speed of sound last year.
According to Gulfstream’s website, the new G650 is the company’s “ultra large cabin, ultra high speed” model. It is designed to carry four crewmembers and up to eight passengers as far as 7000 nautical miles nonstop. The model can cruise at Mach 0.85 on longer trips, or cover shorter distances at speeds of up to Mach 0.925, flying on its two Rolls Royce BR725 engines.
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