NTSB Says Pilot Error Involved in 2014 Bedford, Massachusetts Plane Crash at Hanscom Field

According to a National Transportation Safety Board report, the pilots of the Gulfstream IV jet that crashed at Hanscom Field last May did not conduct a pre-flight check and disregarded a cockpit warning light. The deadly Bedford, MA aviation accident killed the two men and five others on the plane.

Records indicate that the pilots, James McDowell and Bauek De Vries, regularly did not conduct the standard checks. Because of the failure to perform such a check on May 31, it wasn’t until the aircraft was moving at 150 miles an hour right at lift off that they discovered that the flight controls were locked and the plane could not ascend. Instead, the aircraft kept moving forward until it crashed into an antenna and lighting rig before bursting into flames.

Reportedly the gust lock, which is designed to prevent wind damage, had frozen the elevators and the rudder of the plane into place. The mechanism, which is supposed to limit the plane’s power in such conditions did not work as marketed. The manufacturer, Gulfstream, has admitted that the design of this particular gust lock was not correctly certified. The company did, however, put out advisories warning pilots to make sure the mechanism is disengaged before revving a plane’s engine and to make sure to check flight controls before starting to taxi the aircraft.

A check of the plane’s data recorder found that standard checks were only completed in full two times in the last 175 flights and a check was not done before the plane crash. NTSB said that this definitely upped the risk of a crash. Because the elevators of the plane were locked in down position as takeoff was happening, the plane’s nose was forced down as it accelerated instead of heading upward into the air. De Vries and McDowell are also accused of disregarding the rudder limit light, which was on even before takeoff.

The jet was registered to SK Travel LLC, which is managed by Lewis Katz, the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer who was on the flight. The plane was taking him and friends home after a party. Katz, flight attendant Teresa Ann Benhoff, and passengers Anne Leads, Marcella Dalsey, and Susan S. Keball were also killed in the Massachusetts plane accident.

Plane accidents are often catastrophic, which it is why it is important that flight crews make the necessary checks to an aircraft before takeoff. In Massachusetts, please contact our Boston plane crash lawyers today to explore your legal options. You may have reason to pursue a claim against a negligent pilot, leasing company, plane manufacturing company, or some other party who should be held liable.


Common causes of plane crashes:

  • Pilot mistakes
  • Mechanical error
  • Bad weather
  • Other human error
  • Sabotage, including hijacking or terroris

Safety steps ignored before Hanscom crash, NTSB reports, Boston Globe, April 8, 2015

Investigators analyze GIV controls, gust lock in Hanscom crash, Aviation Week, June 13, 2014

National Transportation Safety Board


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