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Update: Co-Pilot Who Exited Jet Mid-flight Without Parachute Reportedly Jumped

The mysterious death of the young pilot has prompted investigations

Co Pilot Jumps Out of Plane
A CASA C-212 Aerocar similar to the one involved in the accident. Photo by John Wheatly

A 23-year-old commercial pilot died under mysterious circumstances when he either jumped or fell out of an airplane that was in the process of making an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Now authorities are reporting that a 9-1-1 call came in saying that the pilot jumped from the plane, which the captain of the plane alluded to in an ATC transmission. 

Still, it’s the authorities who will determine the cause and manner of death. Regardless, a young many, Charles Hew Crooks died after exiting the airplane either intentionally or by accident before the plane made a successful emergency landing.

Crooks was found deceased approximately 30 miles south of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in the city of Fuqua-Varina, North Carolina, in a tree in the backyard of a residence. Reports are that the homeowners heard a loud noise but didn’t see the body of the pilot. Investigators located it before the family knew. News reports stated that Crooks was not wearing a parachute when he departed the airplane.

Charles Crooks
The pilot who fell or jumped to his death, Charles Crooks, from his LinkedIn page.

The twin-engine CASA CN-212 Aviocar subsequently made an emergency landing in a grassy area on the airport property. The name of the pilot, who was the sole occupant onboard the aircraft when it made the emergency landing, has not been named as of this writing.

An issue with the right main landing gear precipitated the emergency as radio transcripts of the conversation between one of the pilots and ATC stated, “We’ve lost our right wheel. We’d like to proceed to Raleigh and make a landing.”

A follow-up radio call to ATC from the pilot flying stated that his co-pilot had jumped from the airplane without a parachute. Investigators will attempt to determine if Crooks jumped intentionally, or fell out accidentally, with some speculating he may have been attempting to visually inspect the damaged landing gear at the time. However, no conclusions at this time can be inferred.

Designed and initially produced in Spain, the Aviocar was later produced in Indonesia, where it is still being produced. A utility plane often used for parachute jumping, package delivery, and border and coastal patrol, the plane’s C-130-style rear ramp makes it a popular choice for militaries in Asia and around the world.

The NTSB and FAA have just begun the investigation process. Plane & Pilot will be monitoring any new developments and will report on them as more information becomes available.

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