On Tuesday, Sept. 18, a plane crash occurred at the Downtown Macon Airport. A Beech 400 Jet descended from Charleston Air Force Base with the intent to land at 10:00 a.m. Although it was raining, the jet departed as scheduled. The jet was small and privately owned.
There were three passengers aboard the plane. John Dewberry, head of the Atlanta based Dewberry Capital Real Estate Company, pilot Brian Landers, and co-pilot, Joel Perkins.
“Water had built up on the runway from the rain,” Lieutenant Sean DeFoe of the Bibb County Sheriff’s office explains. They touched down on the slick runway and applied maximum reverse thrust to slow the jet. As the jet attempted to make a safe landing, it hit the built up water and did not quite make it to the ground. “The pilots and the witnesses claim that the jet hydroplaned,” Lieutenant DeFoe elaborates.
Dewberry was able to leave the wreckage on his own and stumbled towards the road. Perkins also managed to extricate himself from the remains of the jet. Landers was trapped in the wreck until firefighters arrived to cut him from the wreckage. Perkins received minor injuries, the other two men walked away unharmed.
The wreckage caused Ocmulgee East Blvd. to be closed between Hubbard Road to Herbert Smart Airport Road. Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration arrived to investigate the wreckage shortly before 1:00 p.m.
According to Lieutenant DeFoe, the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, took the remains of the plane, including the recorder and black box, to Conyers Georgia for further examination. Kathleen Bergen, of the FAA, said that the remains were turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, for the investigation.
The NTSB reports that the plane was “substantially damaged when it overran runway 28.” The calculated airspeed at approach was 108 knots before descent. They touched down within the first 1,000 feet of the runway. There was visible water on the runway at this point.
The pilots activated maximum reverse thrust, as well as braking and ground spoilers to slow their journey on the runway. Reverse thrusters are a common feature on this type of jet, though an optional one for this particular model. The system is designed to slow the plane upon its landing and is more effective than traditional braking. The system is also supposed to be effective in slowing on poor weather conditions.
However, both pilots reported an as yet unexplained pulsation in the brake system. Evidence shows that at approximately 1,000 feet from the departure end of the runway, evidence of tire tracks were visible. The tire tracks swerved on the runway before exiting the runway into the grass, traveling to the crest of a 25-foot embankment, down the embankment, and across the highway before coming to a rest at the base of a large tree.
The NTSB is continuing its investigation. They have taken the cockpit voice recorder, Garmin 500 global positioning unit, Power Brake Valve, Anti-skid unit, both wheel speed transducers, brake units, and the hydraulic valve package for further examination. Judging by the elements they are still investigating, it is likely that they are examining whether or not the crash was due to a malfunction in something relating to the braking system. They plan to release a final report once they have reached conclusive results.