Seven weeks have passed since a twin-engine aircraft crashed into a quiet South Bend neighborhood. The plane, a Hawker Beechcraft Premier 1A, departed Richard Lloyd Jones Jr. Airport in Tulsa Okla. and was descending into South Bend Regional when it lost all power.
In total four men, all business partners, were onboard. Two would not survive: Wesley Caves, 58, the plane's owner, and Steve Davis, 60, a former Oklahoma star quarterback. Both were seated in the cockpit.
Despite being severely injured, passengers Jim Rodgers, a former Tulsa firefighter and Rodgers’ son-in-law Chris Evans, miraculously survived the wreck.
Two surveillance cameras caught the plagued plane's final moments. One was positioned outside M R Falcon on N. Bendix Drive, and the other sat atop Plastic Solutions Inc. along Voorde Drive.
However for the very first time, NewsCenter 16 has obtained video of the aircraft's two botched landing attempts at the South Bend Regional Airport, prior to the crash.
The Damned Descent:
More than two miles above the fields of northern Indiana, the Sunday afternoon descent into South Bend was totally typical. The eight seat Premiere Jet, with tail number N26DK, was virtually brand new, not five years old.
N26DK: "South Bend approach, Premier Jet 26DK at 11,000.”
Air Traffic Control: "Premier 6DK, turn 5-degrees left vector for runway 9R and call the airport in sight.”
With no advance warning, something terrible transpired13 miles short of runway 9R.
N26DK: "We’ve lost all power and we have no hydraulics.”
Air Traffic Control: “6DK, roger. We'll have equipment standing by. Is your aircraft controllable?”
N26DK: “Ugh… barely controllable."
Barely controllable because without hydraulics, a plane can't utilize its rudder or elevator for vertical or horizontal steering, flaps for reducing speed or extend its landing gear.
As Caves and Davis managed a five ton piece of sinking steel, airport police and fire crews scrambled to fixed positions along runway 9R – an 8,400 foot long strip of asphalt.
N26DK: "We have no navigation, if you could give us a vector please.”
Air Traffic Control: “6DK, roger. Maintain your present heading, you're directed right at South Bend airport, 12 o'clock and 9 miles."
Like the hydraulics and navigational system, the radio also went dead, cutting all communication with air traffic controllers.
Air Traffic Control: "26DK if you have someone on the aircraft with a cell phone, I have a phone number for you if you'd like to contact someone that way."
But no one called, and that's when controllers in the South Bend tower noticed only the front wheel was in the down position.
Air Traffic Control: "6DK go around! If you can hear me go around, you have no gear. 6DK if you can hear me go around!"
Heeding that advice, the twin-engine jet re-ascended and banked right for a fly around. Despite the skilled maneuvering, nothing changed. The two rear tires would not budge.
Air Traffic Control: "26DK, tower observed that you still have a nose wheel only down, it appears that just your nose wheel is down."
Three minutes later, Caves and Davis were more aggressive, bouncing the $2.5 million jet down runway 9R.
Air Traffic Control: "Yeah he's trying to bump it. Oh crap!"
Surveillance video obtained by NewsCenter 16 shows just how fast the aircraft was moving, when for reasons unknown, it pulled back and climbed for a second fly around. But there'd never be a third landing attempt, as the Oklahoma-based jet spiraled out of a blue sky, crashing onto Iowa St.
Rising To The Occasion:
South Bend took the first 911 call, from a man that saw his neighbor’s house, “explode.”
Dispatcher: "South Bend 911.”
Caller: “Yeah I guess the fire department is coming already. Iowa St., a house blew up.”
Dispatcher: “A house?”
Caller: “Everything's gone.”
Dispatcher: “Where at?”
Caller: “1524 Iowa.”
Dispatcher: “What happened on Iowa?”
Caller: “A house blew up.”
Dispatcher: “What do you mean it blew up?”
Caller: “It blew up. Just like that. The whole thing's gone except for the front door.”
Dispatcher: “Okay sir we already have help on the way.”
Amazingly five South Bend dispatchers, tucked inside a dimly lit room, coordinated nearly 100 police officers, firefighters and paramedics on a Sunday afternoon South Bend will not forget.
The NTSB Investigation:
Nearly two months later, the wreckage sits inside the former Northwest Airlines maintenance hangar on the grounds of the airport it attempted to land at. In April, National Transportation Safety Board technicians completed their review of the fuselage, which is now available for the owners to scrap or transport back to Oklahoma.
Investigators will spend the next 10 to 16 months analyzing their physical findings before issuing a final report, which will include the probable cause of the crash. It will also contain a written transcript of the black box audio recordings aboard the aircraft. In respect of the victims and their family members, the NTSB does not release raw black box audio from incidents it investigates.
According to Keith Holloway, a NTSB public affairs representative, the twin-engine jet was not equipped with a flight data recorder. The device, which archives instrument malfunctions, is only required on aircraft with ten or more seats. N26DK had eight seats, two in the cockpit and six in the cabin.
To read the NTSB’s preliminary report, released on April 4, click here.
For a full list of aviation incidents and accidents at or near the South Bend Regional Airport, click on the document icon above this story.