NTSB: Pilot error led to the plane crash that killed Lewis Katz

 Lewis Katz pictured here in this May 27, 2014, file photo. Katz was among the seven people killed in a fiery plane crash in Massachusetts. Katz was 72. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

Lewis Katz pictured here in this May 27, 2014, file photo. Katz was among the seven people killed in a fiery plane crash in Massachusetts. Katz was 72. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

The business jet that crashed last year in Massachusetts, killing the co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer Lewis Katz and six others, was the result of pilot error.

That’s according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Board said during a meeting in Washington that had the pilots performed all the required pre-flight checks, the crash could have been averted.

The pilots mistakenly kept the so-called “gust-lock system” engaged. It basically keeps the plane parked. It’s supposed to be turned off before the plane’s engine is turned on.

But because it was still locked, the plane couldn’t take off and ended up crashing into a ravine. The plane then burst into flames.

The Board’s Robert Sumwalt said the pilots intentionally disregarded standard procedures.

“So really, that sort of shows that the crew knew what they were supposed to do, they knew what was required of them, but for whatever reason, they elected not to do it,” Sumwalt said. 

The Board’s investigation found that despite thousands of hours of experience, crews rarely do all the required pre-fight tests.

A cockpit voice recording revealed that as the plane was moving down the runway, one of the pilot said: “the lock is on … I can’t stop it.”

The plane’s manufacturer, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., said in a statement Wednesday that is has notified pilots of the importance of performing thorough pre-flight checks, and is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to modify the gust lock system on its jets.

Gulfstream has previously said the crash was due to the pilots’ failure to conduct a pre-flight check.

In addition to the pilot and Katz, the others who died in the crash were co-pilot James McDowell, of Georgetown, Delaware; flight attendant Teresa Benhoff, of Easton, Maryland, Anne Leeds, a 74-year-old retired preschool teacher he invited on the trip just that day; Marcella Dalsey, the director of Katz’s son’s foundation; and Susan Asbell, 67, the wife of a former New Jersey county prosecutor.

The roughly 100-page final report will be posted on the NTSB’s website with two weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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