The National Transportation Safety Board has released their final report as to the cause of a crash landing of a small plane with NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Dale Earnhardt Jr and his family in 2019.
According to the NTSB, the pilot was unable to maintain the proper airspeed for a safe landing. The flight crew also decided to continue with an unstable final approach and landing also contributed to the crash.
On August 15, 2019, Earnhardt was accompanied by his wife Amy and daughter Isla were headed for a weekend of racing at Bristol Motor Speedway where Earnhardt had four cars racing in the Xfinity Series race and the retired driver worked as an anylists for NBC Sports.
The Cessna 680A Citation Latitude bounced twice after a hard landing before finally landing long on the runway at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport before the right side landing gear collapsed causing the right wing to touch the ground. The plane traveled the remaining 1,000 feet of runway before crashing through a fence and coming to a stop near Tennessee Highway 91. As the plane began smoking, the Earnhardt family and pilots escaped from the plane, sustaining only minor injuries as the plane began to burn.
After investigating the crash over the past year, the NTSB issued their final report with a list of events that contributed to the crashing of the plane.
The report states that the cause was due to pilot error, including:
Pilot Richard Pope carried extra speed on the approach saying that the plane, “slows down so easy”.
The decision to make an unstable approach instead of making a go around run before landing caused “a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion.”
Failure to deploy the speedbrakes upon initial touchdown; which would have prevented the plane from running off of the runway.
Failure to maintain proper airspeed and poor decision making by the pilot.
No word was given on whether the pilots would be subjected to any disciplinary action or what that discipline would be if any were handed down.
Feature photo credit: By Zach Catanzareti Photo – dale earnhardt jr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90746728