A deadly plane crash at Greenville Downtown Airport (GMU) in South Carolina last month was likely caused, at least in part, by inadequate pilot training and certification, federal investigators found.
The Sept. 27 plane crash killed pilot John Christian Caswell, 49, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, and his co-pilot, Stephen George Fox, of Indian Rocks, Florida. Two passengers – a wife and husband – were critically injured.
Video footage of the accident shows the Dassault Falcon 50 jet landing on runway 19 at GMU before plunging off an embankment at the end of the landing strip. The crash caused the mid-size jet to hit the ground nose-first and break apart.
“We all saw it land, and for some reason it did not stop,” GMU airport director Joe Frasher told The Greenville News.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators haven’t determined why the jet overshot the runway or failed to stop, but several pilots told The Greenville News that the plane crash underscores a deadly problem within the private plane industry.
From 2008 through 2017, 127 people died in 161 plane crashes involving pilots who lacked the proper certification. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records show that both pilots killed in the GMU plane crash lacked the required certification for operating the Dassault Falcon 50 – a model commonly used in business travel.
According to several pilots and aviation officials interviewed by The Greenville News, the rules and regulations to prevent airplane crashes involving improper certification are in place, but there is a lack of enforcement. Instead, pilots of private airplanes operate on the honor system, unlike commercial airline pilots.
“A lot of it in a sense is the honor system. You’ve been given a responsibility,” Micah Rea, a Greenville-based pilot and president of the Upstate Aeronautics Association told The Greenville News. “You’re a pilot, you’ve gone through training, you’ve invested in it, you’re flying valuable assets, you’re flying people, you’ve been given a responsibility. It’s been required of you to use that responsibility in the right way.”