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Gulfstream G650 Prototype Lost in Flight Test Accident

By Mac McClellan, Editor-at-Large, EAA 747337

G650-Proto
G650 Serial No. 2, shown in this photo from February 2011, crashed Saturday morning in Roswell, New Mexico. Courtesy Gulfstream
G650
Crash site of Serial No. 2. Courtesy NTSB

April 3, 2011 — A Gulfstream G650 prototype crashed at Roswell, New Mexico (KROM), on Saturday morning, killing both test pilots and two flight test engineers, all employees of Gulfstream. The crew was conducting takeoff performance testing when the accident happened. The NTSB confirmed Wednesday (April 6) that the crew was performing simulated “single-engine failure on takeoff” testing when a wing struck the ground resulting in the crash.

Experimental test pilots Kent Crenshaw EAA 789978, 65 years-old, and Vivan Ragusa, EAA 785831, 51 years-old, along with technical specialists David McCollum, 47, and Reece Ollenburg, 48, died in the accident. All four were residents of Savannah, Georgia.

“The aircraft had been in the pattern for a couple of hours before the crash, conducting braking tests. This involved several takeoffs and landings. The plane had just lifted off when the right wing struck the concrete,” FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunsford told EAA. “The plane hit the ground again and the landing gear collapsed. It slid to a stop about 40 feet from the control tower. The aircraft was destroyed by fire.”

The G650 is the longest range, fastest business jet with a top speed of Mach .925 and a nonstop range of 7,000 nautical miles. The G650 was expected to be certified later this year with first deliveries next year. Five prototypes have been flying and much of the developmental testing has already been completed.

Read Mac’s report on the G650’s fly-by-wire flight control system and its recent speed record

Gulfstream and many other business jet makers use the Roswell airport to measure takeoff performance. These tests include intentionally failing an engine at the worst possible moment during the takeoff to determine that the airplane can safely continue to climb on the remaining engine.

Joe Lombardo president of Savannah, Georgia-based Gulfstream Aerospace said in a press release, "We mourn the loss of our colleagues and friends and extend our deepest sympathies to their families."

As far as anyone can recall this is the first significant accident of any kind in the long history of Gulfstream test flying that began at Grumman in the late 1960s with the Gulfstream II.

Everyone at EAA and in the GA community grieves the loss of the crew in this tragedy.

 

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