NTSB: Rush To Certify G650 a Factor in Test Crash

In findings released yesterday, the NTSB blamed the April 2, 2011, flight-test crash of a Gulfstream G650 on what it characterized as the aircraft manufacturer’s rush to complete its aggressive flight-test schedule. The Safety Board found that the crash at Roswell (N.M.) International Air Center was the result of Gulfstream’s failure to properly develop and validate takeoff speeds; recognize and correct errors in the takeoff safety speed that manifested during previous G650 flight tests; the flight-test team’s persistent and aggressive attempts to achieve a takeoff speed that was erroneously low; and Gulfstream’s inadequate investigation of uncommanded roll events that occurred during previous flight tests, “which should have revealed incorrect assumptions about the airplane’s stall angle of attack in ground effect.” “Deadlines are essential motivators, but safety must always trump schedule,” said NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman. “Flight test should not be rushed or compromised.” At about 9:34 a.m. MDT on April 2, 2011, during a one-engine takeoff from Roswell International Air Center, the G650 experienced a right-wing stall, causing the airplane to roll to the right with the right wingtip contacting the runway and hitting a concrete structure and an airport weather station, resulting in extensive structural damage and a post-crash fire. The two pilots and two flight engineers on board were killed in the accident. Although the aircraft was substantially damaged, the NTSB said the crash was survivable. “We appreciate the commitment of the NTSB to thoroughly examining this accident and determining its cause,” Gulfstream said in a statement. “Gulfstream has and will continue to support the families of the flight crew on aircraft [S/N] 6002. Their well-being remains a top consideration of everyone at Gulfstream. Safety is Gulfstream’s first priority. Since this accident, we have redoubled our efforts to strengthen the safety culture in flight test and throughout the rest of the company. We are committed to continuous safety improvement.”

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