Two Federal Aviation Administration employees from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport tower told the Raleigh-Wake County 911 dispatcher that the surviving pilot reported that his co-pilot jumped from a plane last week before to make an emergency landing.
The body of Charles Hew Crooks, 23, was found on the evening of July 29 in a backyard in Fuquay-Varina, hours after the plane landed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Crooks was one of two pilots of the CASA 212-200 aircraft.
“It’s from Raleigh Airport,” an FAA employee said in a recording obtained by WRAL News on Tuesday. “We have a pilot coming onto the field. His co-pilot jumped out of the plane. He made a ground impact and here are the coordinates.
Check-in, a communication between people at the airport and 911 dispatchers, takes about 13 minutes.
“He said he jumped out of the plane,” an FAA employee said. “His co-pilot jumped without the parachute so he could impact the ground.”
Wake County Emergency Management Operations Chief Darshan Patel said the first 911 call came in around 2:30 p.m. on Friday, July 29 from RDU. Patel said the call is what prompted the search for Crooks. Flight logs show the emergency landing occurred at 2:48 p.m.
FAA employees tried to discern what had happened.
“I’m sure the pilot is going to be shaken up,” an FAA employee said. “I have no idea.
“He literally said, ‘My pilot just jumped out. “”
Crooks had no harness or parachute.
Patel told WRAL News: “Once the plane landed it was reconfirmed based on a report that the pilot said the second person on the plane exited the plane before the ‘landing.”
“I guess at this point all we can do is rework,” an FAA employee said. “I know. I don’t know. This is the craziest thing ever.”
Devin Lynch, a friend of Crooks, said he wanted answers.
“I would be interested in hearing the CVR recording because I would like to hear what was going on in the cockpit that was not being communicated to air traffic control,” Lynch said.
Lynch said that in the few years he had known Crooks, it didn’t seem normal to him to jump out of a plane without a parachute.
“I’ve known Charles for three years. He’s been a pilot since the day I met him. I’ve flown with him a few times, and I can tell you firsthand what kind of pilot he was. He followed all the rules to the letter,” he says.
NTSB resumes investigation
The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday that it is resuming the investigation into Crooks’ death.
The news comes a day after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would lead the investigation.
The RDU Police Department said it interviewed the surviving pilot, whose name has not been released. RDU police did not release the incident report, citing the ongoing investigation. Airport police turned the interview over to the FAA and NTSB.
Preliminary information indicates that the plane suffered significant damage to the landing gear and fuselage, according to the NTSB.
The NTSB will determine the scope of its investigation after gathering more information. The board has not conducted any interviews since Tuesday.
WRAL News has also requested interviews with FAA and RDU police.
Patel said more than 80 people were involved in the search for Crooks.
“It was a pretty large search area at the start, and we wanted to make sure we were using our resources efficiently but also effectively to do what we could for this person,” Patel said.
Several law enforcement entities were involved in the search for scammers, including Wake County Emergency Management, City of Cary, City of Holly Springs, City of Fuquay-Varina, and North Carolina State Highway Patrol .
“It was kind of an all-hands-on for people who were in that business,” Patel said.
Authorities discovered Crooks’ body around 7 p.m. on Friday July 29 in the backyard of a house in Fuquay-Varina. A neighbor who heard a noise alerted the officers in the area. Officers found Crooks with no sign of a harness or parachute.
WRAL News is working to determine what the mission of the two pilots was on July 29. Both pilots were working for Rampart Aviation at the time. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment from WRAL News.