9 deaths in past 3 weeks in Hawker Beechcraft Premier jet crashes

March 19, 2013|By Kelli Stopczynski ( | WSBT TV

SOUTH BEND – Tuesday marked another crucial step into the investigation of a plane crash that killed two people and sent three others to the hospital.

After crews strapped several pieces of that private jet to a crane that hoisted them onto a flat bed truck, a police escort led the truck from the scene on North Iowa Street in South Bend to a hangar at South Bend Regional Airport.

Investigators will spend the next several days and weeks examining the plane inside that hangar to try and figure out what caused it to crash.

WSBT also gained more insight into the history of that particular Hawker Beechcraft Premier jet - learning it's had problems before.

March 5, a former high school football coach from Memphis, Tennessee said the owner of the plane, Wes Caves, flew him from Memphis to Tulsa, Oklahoma and back for a speaking engagement.


Bill Courtney said the people on the plane were visibly shaken after it landed.

“I was on the ground. I had no idea – evidently they’d made two or three attempts to land, the weather was terrible and they were having problems that were, to my understanding, primarily weather related but when they came into the lobby of the FBO, someone said that the automatic pilot disengaged as well,” Courtney told WSBT.

Other pilots congratulated Caves on his landing, Courtney recalled.  But he also said it didn’t worry him, noting Caves and Steve Davis who he said were personal friends, were both extremely professional.

“I had absolutely no reservations at all about hopping on that plane and flying with those guys. I would have done it the very next day,” Courtney added.

Davis was a passenger on both of those flights. He and Caves died in Sunday’s crash in South Bend.  Both men were licensed pilots, but investigators won’t say who was flying the plan and who was co-piloting.

Five people died Feb. 20 when the same type of jet crashed in Georgia.  That investigation is ongoing.

Two people also died in the same type of plane in France on March 4.

In all, nine people have died in the Hawker Beechcraft Premier in the last month.

There are also questions about the plane's lift dump system, which is a part that can help the plane brake.

An NTSB investigator said Monday he wasn’t aware of any fleet safety issues with this type of plane, but noted they’re bringing in special investigators to examine all of the aircraft’s systems.

“Our mission is not simply to understand or to determine a probable cause. It is to identify any kind of safety issues that could be related to the accident which we can use to prevent this kind of accident from occurring again,” said NTSB Investigator Todd Fox.

The NTSB did not brief news media today. But a few hours after removing the plane from the three homes on Iowa Street, the federal agency narrowed its perimeter to just those three homes, and opened the street.

Two of the three homes damaged by the private jet will be torn down, said South Bend Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier.

Read about recent Hawker Beechcraft Premier crashes here:  

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