Pilot ‘Jumps Off’ The Aircraft In North Carolina After Losing Its Landing Gear; Plane Manages To Land, Pilot Dead

The body of a 23-year-old person who appeared to have either fallen from or jumped from a CASA C-212 twin-engine turboprop light cargo aircraft has been discovered in North Carolina’s Wake County, the US, authorities said. 

Mysteriously, the passenger got off the twin-engine cargo plane before it had to make an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport due to a problem with the landing gear.

According to WTVD-TV, a local ABC television affiliate, the aircraft, with the civil registration number N497CA, tried to land on Raleigh-Durham’s Runway 5R-23L at approximately 2:40 PM local time on July 29. 

There were two people on board at first, according to recordings of conversations with local air traffic controllers that are publicly available.

The crew informed the traffic controllers that the aircraft had lost its main landing gear wheel following a “hard landing” at Raeford West Airport, located southwest of Raeford. After that, they were able to take flight once more. 

A CASA 212 light cargo plane lies on its side after skidding off the runway during an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on July 29, 2022. WRAL television capture

The pilot of N497CA was taken to Duke Hospital with minor injuries following the emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the crash.

The body was discovered behind a house near Sunset Lake and Hilltop Needmore roads following an extensive search that involved numerous municipal, county, and federal agencies, said Darshan Patel, operations manager for Wake County emergency management.

According to a Facebook post on the Fuquay-Varina Police Department, the man has been identified as Charles Hew Crooks of Raleigh. Crooks was the co-pilot of the aircraft.

When the aircraft touched down, the pilot was the only passenger aboard and was taken to the hospital with minor wounds. 

Search team members “wished for a better outcome,” according to Patel. He said he didn’t know if the deceased had fallen or jumped. The man had no parachute and probably got off the plane without knowing how high it was flying. 

Aircraft Details 

Uncertainty exists regarding the CASA C-212’s activities at the time of the hard landing. Online flight tracking software reveals that, before the accident, it had completed several flights from Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport in neighboring Nash County, North Carolina.

The aircraft had flown a variety of patterns to the southwest of Fayetteville, including ones that passed by the West Drop Zone of the PK Airpark. 

According to FlightAware, the aircraft is registered to Spore LTD LLC of Colorado Springs. However, not much information about the business is available online. It’s important to note that the company’s address listed with the FAA is also used by another business called Rampart Aviation. Rampart operates a fleet of CASA 212 aircraft. 

A Rampart company logo is visible on the tail of this specific plane in recent photos that can be found online. For various reasons, it’s not unusual for aviation contractors to register each aircraft with multiple subsidiaries. 

Rampart is well-known for performing contracted work for the American military, such as assisting with parachute training and test and evaluation activities for American Army airborne units and special operations forces. 

CASA C-212 Aviocar – Wikipedia

According to a Pentagon press release, Rampart and several other businesses were given new contracts by the US Special Operations Command in April for “military freefall and static line support in various locations across the continental US.” 

Fort Bragg, the primary airborne and special operations hub for the US Army, is located in Fayetteville, and American troops frequently use PK Airpark and its associated drop zones.

Although it cannot be said with certainty that this aircraft belonged to a division of that company, experts believe it is still significant. The aircraft has served many nations over the years. 

By 2013, 290 C-212s were flying in 40 countries, primarily for transportation, surveillance, and search and rescue. Indonesia has 70 aircraft in service. The aircraft saw extensive use while serving in the air forces of numerous nations, short-haul cargo companies, and regional airlines.  

The United States Army Special Operations Command also used the CASA C-212 to drop supplies and sneak in troops. Due to its retractable rear ramp from which the troops can leave the aircraft, the CASA C-212 is a well-liked option with smoke jumpers, parachutists, and skydivers.