landing gear
Mayukh Saha
Mayukh Saha
March 26, 2024 ·  4 min read

Co-pilot Jumped To His Death From Aircraft After Accidentally Damaging Landing Gear

A co-pilot of a small aircraft in North Carolina apparently jumped to his death, according to a release from The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The co-pilot was upset that the aircraft had been damaged during an unsuccessful runway approach. Charles Hew Crooks, aged 23, was the co-pilot on a dual-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar aircraft in North Carolina. According to the NTSB’s preliminary investigation, he and the other pilot were flying a plane carrying skydivers when it “fell,” causing landing gear striking a runway on approach.

Charles Crooks – The Unfortunate Co-Pilot

The CASA 212 aircraft Crooks was flying, according to the investigation, had made two skydiving runs. It dropped its right primary landing gear while making a rough landing at the Raeford West Airport. Crooks was in charge of the aircraft at the moment of the rough landing. However, the pilot took back control and managed to get it back in the air, the pilot reported. The pilot had then instructed Crooks to declare a crisis and ask for a detour to land at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. But about twenty minutes later, he seemed uneasy.

Charles Hew Crooks, the unfortunate co-pilot
Image Credits: WRAL/NBC

The co-pilot, who inexplicably disappeared somewhere in North Carolina, apparently “jumped” out of the plane at this point, according to a 911 call. The co-pilot of Crooks reportedly stated that he jumped out of the damaged jet before it attempted an emergency descent at Raleigh Durham International Airport. The Triangle’s rescue personnel reacted fast to start looking for a co-pilot who had allegedly leaped off a plane before it was forced to land at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, according to new 911 recordings made public on Wednesday. 

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Co-Pilot Apologized Before Exiting The Aircraft

On July 30, just before 3 p.m., Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center made the initial call to Cary 911. They informed them of a co-pilot who had “jumped” from a tiny plane in mid-flight. Six audio recordings made by the Cary Police Department shed further light on the incident. It showed the pilot, who made it out alive, informing air traffic control that Charles Hew Crooks had leaped out of the plane moments before it touched down.

The right wheel of their aircraft had lost contact with the ground close to a Raeford private airport, according to the surviving pilot. According to a preliminary report made available by the NTSB on August 16th, Charles afterward got out of his seat and took off his headset. He then apologized to the pilot before actually “departing the aircraft” through the aft ramp door.

On July 29th, Crooks did not appear to grab the bar approximately six feet above the ramp when he dropped out of the twin-engine aircraft. The other pilot, who remains unnamed, reportedly told investigators about this detail. According to the initial reports, Crooks leaped out of the twin-engine cargo jet within one mile from West Lake Middle School off West Lake Road.

Emergency personnel quickly assembled at West Lake Middle in Cary at around 2:57 p.m. They began discussing the equipment they would require for the search. The list included a drone, a helicopter, and maybe an underwater drone. They made an effort to identify Crooks and determine his possible landing spot. The Cary Fire Department was then given the go-ahead to begin searching the wooded areas around West Lake Middle School. According to officials, Crooks dropped around 3,500 feet without a parachute.

Charles in the seat of an airplane. (This is not the airplane that suffered the emergency).
Image Credits: Brown-Wynne Funeral Home

Crook’s Body Was Found In A Backyard

A few days later, the body of the 23-year-old Bucknell University alumnus was found in the backyard of a house in Fuquay-Varina, N.C. The location was roughly 30 miles south of the airport. According to the biography, Crooks had previously instructed students at the FlightGest Academy in North Carolina. He was fully licensed as a flying instructor.

Hew Crooks, Charles Crooks’ father, told WRAL that he was unaware of what transpired in his son’s dying moments. The first responders did not receive a complete description of the co-pilot during the first search frenzy. At first, the information was that Crooks was a 27-year-old male.  Later, authorities corrected it to 23. The pilot said that Charles was a white male standing 5 feet 10 inches tall. He was wearing khaki slacks and a black shirt. He did not exit the plane using a parachute, according to the pilot.

Fuquay-Varina authorities eventually recognized Crooks. The Raleigh resident was a flying instructor and pilot. The National Transportation Safety Board is still looking into what happened. The unnamed pilot was transferred to a hospital after the landing after suffering minor wounds. Later on the day, he was released. Crooks’ buddy Devin Lynch claimed that the incident did not fit what he knows about the deceased pilot. Crooks may have perished at impact or during descent, according to investigators.

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  1. Crooks was ‘visibly upset’ over earlier mishap before jumping from plane, pilot tells NTSB.” News Observer. Colleen Hammond and Richard Stradling. August 17, 2022.
  2. Co-pilot jumped to his death from aircraft after accidentally damaging landing gear.” UNILAD. The Unilad Team. August 17, 2022.
  3. NTSB: Copilot who jumped from plane upset about hard landing.” ABC News. The Associated Press. August 16, 2022.