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Expert: Plane wasn't going fast enough before Gaithersburg crash | News

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Expert: Plane wasn't going fast enough before Gaithersburg crash
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GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WUSA9) -- The NTSB is unlikely to offer any firm answers for months on the cause of a deadly plane crash in Gaithersburg. But veteran pilots and investigators say it's increasingly clear what happened in the moments before the jet crashed into a home, killing a mother and two you children on the ground, as well as three on the plane.

Veteran pilots say it looks like the man at the stick of that small jet simply failed to keep it flying fast enough to keep it in the air. T
hey call it an aerodynamic stall, and it's one of the most common causes of plane crashes.

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Aerodynamic stalls happen when the aircraft is going too slowly and its nose is pointed too far up in the sky to stay in the air. Some investigators say the FAA has been moving far too slowly to offer pilots a warning that they're about to stall.

The Phenom Jet that crashed has a systems that warn pilots just seconds before a stall. For more than a decade now, the NTSB has pushed the FAA to mandate more: a low airspeed warning system that might give pilots a precious few extra seconds to react.

"The FAA and industry should almost be ashamed of themselves at this point for not doing more to require airspeed alerting systems," said Charles Pereira, a safety consultant and former NTSB investigator.

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Witnesses describe the jet's pilot seemingly wrestling for control of the plane just before it crashed.

"Wobble, struggled to keep altitude, wings left to right up to down," said Tracy Everett, who saw the plane in the air.

Experts say that's typical of a plane approaching a stall. The flight data recorder shows the stall warning system sounded 20 seconds before impact. The pilot hit the throttle two seconds after that, but it was too late.

"When they're at low altitude like that, their first reaction instead of adding thrust and pushing the nose down to get the airspeed back up and recover, they sense the proximity of the grown and they pull back because they don't want to hit the ground," said Pereira, who recommended low airspeed warning systems after the 2002 stall crash that killed Senator Paul Wellstone.

He pointed to the Asiana crash in San Francisco as another example of a crash caused by pilot failure to maintain airspeed.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association says one more safety system could help.

"It's a simple green, yellow, red system. Green is good. Yellow, approaching a stall or bad angle of attack. Red, you're in a stall," said Steve Hedges of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Very small jets, like the one that crashed in Gaithersburg, are increasingly popular. The Aircraft Owners Association says they have a good safety record. But Pereira fears if less experienced pilots are flying them, we may risk more crashes into neighborhoods.


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