NTSB Report Reveals How Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Plane Crashed
A plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family bounced twice before crashing through a chain-link fence and coming to a rest on a highway in eastern Tennessee on Aug. 15. Pilots had hoped to get the plane airborne again, however.
The initial report from the NTSB (acquired through the Charlotte Observer) states that the two pilots hoped to attempt a "go-around" after the second bounce, but the aircraft did not respond as they expected, leading to a crash landing and fire on Tennessee Highway 91. The plane came down from the second bounce just 1,000 feet before the end of the 4,500-foot runway at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tenn.
“The video revealed that the right main landing gear collapsed and the outboard section of the right wing contacted the runway shortly after the third touchdown," the NTSB's three-page statement reads. "The airplane departed the paved surface beyond the runway 24 departure end threshold, through an open area of grass, down an embankment, through a chain-link fence, and up an embankment, coming to rest on the edge of Tennessee Highway 91."
Almost immediately the plane's cabin erupted in flames, but everyone was able to escape through the main entry door. The Earnhardts (Dale, wife Amy and daughter Isla, plus their dog) were the only passengers on the nine-seat private airplane. There were also two pilots. The racer suffered minor injuries, but everyone escaped unharmed before the plane was overtaken by fire a fire that destroyed the aircraft.
Additional non-fire damage to the plane came upon the first two impacts when the nose landing gear and left main landing gear were "separated from the airframe." The plane, built in 2015, took off from Statesville, N.C., for a short flight to Tennessee where Earnhardt was expected to be an analyst for the weekend's race at Bristol Motor Speedway. No problems were reported during takeoff or while in flight.
Other details about the plane, weather conditions and pilot experience and certifications were also part of the NTSB's report. The cause of the crash was not suggested in this initial report. A more detailed report is expected in the weeks and months to come.
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