Figure: N370V Crash Site, from NTSB Report, Figure 1.

Eddie Sez:

This was a poorly qualified crew, flying for an illegal charter operator, not understanding the critical nature of adhering to center of gravity limits on the Challenger 600 series aircraft. I flew a newer version of this airplane about ten years ago and during that period one was lost due to what the manufacturer claimed was a weight and balance problem but ended up being an inept test pilot. But all who fly the Challenger series should understand that weight and balance is one of their challenges. The aircraft tends to be nose-heavy and the heavier it is, the heavier the nose becomes, to the point of being out of limits.

There are lessons for us non-Challenger pilots as well. We need to understand the shape of our aircraft center of gravity envelope and what impact adding fuel, people, or things to various areas of the airplane have on the airplane's center of gravity. More about this: Flight Engineering / Weight and Balance Principles. Gulfstreams are far more forgiving but the lessons are still applicable. See G-450 Normal Procedures / Weight and Balance for a quick primer.

What follows are quotes from the relevant regulatory documents, listed below, as well as my comments in blue.


Accident Report


Narrative

Figure: Challenger 600 Weight and Balance Envelope, from NTSB Accident Report 06/04, Appendix C, page 110.

[NTSB Accident Report 06/04, page ix.] On February 2, 2005, about 0718 eastern standard time, a Bombardier Challenger CL-600-1A11, N370V, ran off the departure end of runway 6 at Teterboro Airport (TEB), Teterboro, New Jersey, at a ground speed of about 110 knots; through an airport perimeter fence; across a six-lane highway (where it struck a vehicle); and into a parking lot before impacting a building. The two pilots were seriously injured, as were two occupants in the vehicle. The cabin aide, eight passengers, and one person in the building received minor injuries. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and postimpact fire. The accident flight was an on-demand passenger charter flight from TEB to Chicago Midway Airport, Chicago, Illinois. The flight was subject to the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 and operated by Platinum Jet Management, LLC (PJM), Fort Lauderdale, Florida, under the auspices of a charter management agreement with Darby Aviation (Darby), Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan.

[NTSB Accident Report 06/04, ¶1.6.2.2.]

  • During postaccident interviews, the captain and first officer told investigators that they did not perform manual balance calculations or use the airplane-specific weight and balance graph that was in the accident airplane.
  • Under 14 CFR 135.63 the crew was required to prepare a load manifest that includes the aircraft's center of gravity and the center of gravity limits. Even had they not been on a 135 leg, the FAA's usual response is to cite 14 CFR 91.7, "Civil Aircraft Airworthiness," which says the pilot-in-command of any civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight.

  • Neither pilot recalled calculating the airplane's CG before their attempted departure, and they stated that the only weight assessment calculated for the accident flight was performed using the flight management system (FMS) calculator. The FMS calculator totaled the passenger, fuel, and baggage weights based on input (or default) values; however, it did not calculate the balance information.

  • The Safety Board's examination of the weight and balance form that was completed for the inbound flight from LAS revealed that the airplane empty weight that was printed on the form had been modified by hand and that it was lower than the actual airplane empty weight. This lower airplane empty weight resulted in an incorrect (farther-aft-than-actual) empty weight CG. Further, the airplane empty weight that had previously been entered into the FMS (24,500 pounds) was incorrect (also lower than the airplane's actual empty weight). The airplane's empty weight was listed correctly (based on the September 2001 weighing) in the airplane flight manual (AFM).

[NTSB Accident Report 06/04, ¶1.6.2.4]

[NTSB Accident Report 06/04, ¶2.3.2]


Probable Cause

[NTSB Accident Report 06/04, page ix.] The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the flight crew’s failure to ensure the airplane was loaded within weight and balance limits and their attempt to take off with the center of gravity well forward of the forward takeoff limit, which prevented the airplane from rotating at the intended rotation speed.

[NTSB Accident Report 06/04, ¶3.1


References

NTSB Aircraft Accident Report, AAR-06/04, Runway Overrun and Collision, Platinum Jet Management, LLC, Bombardier Challenger CL-600-1A11, N370V, Teterboro, New Jersey, February 2, 2005