The CASA-212 lost a main landing gear wheel in the initial incident and subsequently made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
The body of a 27-year-old man, the identity of which has not been made public, has been recovered in North Carolina’s Wake County. This individual matches the description of someone who appears to either have fallen or jumped from a CASA C-212 twin-engine turboprop light cargo aircraft before it made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
The CASA C-212, which carries the civil registration number N497CA, attempted to land on Raleigh-Durham’s Runway 5R-23L at approximately 2:40 PM local time, according to WTVD-TV, a local ABC television affiliate. Publicly available recordings of exchanges with air traffic controllers in the area, which you can listen to here, confirm that two individuals were initially on board. The crew can be heard explaining that the plane, which was using the callsign Shady 02 at the time, lost its right main landing gear wheel after what they described as a “hard landing” at Raeford West Airport outside of the city of Raeford to the southwest. They had managed to get airborne again afterward.
After the subsequent emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham, N497CA’s pilot was transported to Duke Hospital with minor injuries. The accident is now under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Local media reports say that one of the crewmen, who was not wearing a parachute, was at least initially believed to have exited the aircraft as the plane flew over a body of water near the West Lake Middle School in nearby Apex, North Carolina. Darshan Patel, Operations Manager for Wake County’s Emergency Management division, said at a press conference this evening that a resident in the area had flagged down authorities who were taking part in the search efforts to let them know they had heard something fall in their backyard. Sadly, the body was subsequently located and recovered, marking a tragic end to this bizarre incident.
Exactly what the CASA C-212 was doing at the time of the hard landing is unclear. Online flight tracking software shows that it had also made multiple flights today from Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport in neighboring Nash County, North Carolina, and flew various patterns to the southwest of Fayetteville, including near the PK Airpark’s West Drop Zone, before the accident.
Technically, the N497CA is registered to a company called Spore LTD LLC, according to the FAA’s online database. The company has no real online presence. It is worth noting that its Colorado Springs, Colorado address that is on file with the FAA is the same as another firm called Rampart Aviation. CASA 212 aircraft are part of Rampart’s fleet and relatively recent pictures of this particular plane online show it with a Rampart company logo clearly visible on the tail. It is not uncommon for aviation contractors to register their individual aircraft to multiple subsidiaries for various reasons.
In addition, Rampart is known to do contracted work for the U.S. military, including supporting parachute training and test and evaluation activities for U.S. Army airborne units and U.S. special operations forces. The Pentagon announced just in April that U.S. Special Operations Command had awarded new contracts to Rampart and a number of other companies for “military freefall and static line support in various locations across the continental U.S.” Fayetteville is home to the U.S. Army’s Fort Bragg, the service’s main airborne and special operations hub, and PK Airpark and its associated drop zones are routinely used by American troops. This does not mean conclusively that this aircraft belonged to a subsidiary of that firm, but it is certainly noteworthy at this time.
We have reached out to Rampart Aviation for comment. We will update this story as more information becomes available.
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