SIC Then Got Up From His Seat, Removed His Headset, Apologized, And Departed The Airplane Via The Aft Ramp Door

Location: Raeford, NC Accident Number: ERA22LA348
Date & Time: July 29, 2022, 14:04 Local Registration: N497CA
Aircraft: CASA 212 Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Skydiving

On July 29, 2022, about 1404 eastern daylight time, a Casa 212-200, N497CA, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Raeford, North Carolina. The pilot-in-command was not injured, and the second-in-command sustained fatal injuries during the subsequent diversion to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), Durham, North Carolina. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 skydiving flight.

The pilot-in-command (PIC) reported that they flew two skydiving runs then descended to the Raeford West Airport (NR20), Raeford, North Carolina, to pick up a third group of skydivers. The second-in-command (SIC) was flying the approach to NR20 and was “on heading, altitude and airspeed” until the airplane descended below the tree line and “dropped.” Both pilots called for a go-around maneuver, which the SIC initiated; however, before the SIC could arrest the airplane’s sink rate and initiate a climb, the right main landing gear (RMLG) impacted the runway surface. The PIC assumed the flight controls upon the airplane reaching 400 ft agl, then flew a low approach over NR20 to have airfield personnel verify damage. The personnel subsequently called the PIC to let him know that they recovered the fractured RMLG on the runway. The PIC directed the SIC to declare an emergency and request a diversion to RDU for landing.

While enroute to RDU, the crew coordinated with air traffic control, operations, and their customer, and planned their approach and landing at RDU, with the SIC responsible for communicating with air traffic control while the PIC flew the airplane. The PIC reported that there was moderate turbulence during the flight, and that about 20 minutes into the diversion to RDU, after conducting approach and emergency briefings, the SIC became visibly upset about the hard landing. Review of preliminary air traffic control radio communication information from the Federal Aviation Administration indicated that the SIC had been communicating with air traffic control up to that point in the flight.

In his final transmission, the SIC acknowledged a course heading from air traffic control. The PIC described that about this time the SIC opened his side cockpit window, and “may have gotten sick.” The PIC took over radio communications, and the SIC lowered the ramp in the back of the airplane, indicating that felt like he was going to be sick and needed air. The PIC stated that the SIC then got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized, and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door. The PIC stated that there was a bar one could grab about 6 ft above the ramp; however, he did not witness the SIC grab the bar before exiting the airplane. The PIC then turned the airplane to the right to search for the SIC. In a radio transmission to air traffic control about 1 ½ minutes after the SIC’s radio acknowledgement of the course heading, the PIC notified air traffic control that his copilot had departed the airplane without a parachute.

The PIC proceeded on course to RDU, where he performed a low-approach and then emergency landing. Upon landing, the airplane departed the right side of the runway and came to rest upright in the grass.

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed substantial damage to the RMLG, landing gear fittings, and the airframe structure where the fittings attach. The airplane was retained for further examination.