The pilot of a small twin-engine plane can be heard in a 40-minute recording asking air traffic control for help with an emergency landing before his 23-year-old co-pilot jumps or falls from 3,500 feet.
Charles Hew Crooks was not wearing a parachute before falling to his death in North Carolina on Friday, officials said.
In the 40-minute exchange between the unidentified pilot and air traffic control, there is no mention or suggestion that Crooks fell from the plane.
The pilot can be heard saying, “Emergency, we’ve lost our right wheel. We would like to fly on to Raleigh and land in Raleigh.”
He adds: “We have two people on board. We have enough fuel on board for the next four hours.”
Air Traffic Control replies: ‘Raleigh-Durham Airport or Raleigh-General?’ “Rogers resume all navigation to Raleigh-Durham Airport.”
“For clarity, have you tried landing on Raeford West?” he asks. ‘Made [the wheel] still fall off in mid-air?’
“We tried to land,” said the pilot. “We made contact with the ground and had a hard landing and decided to go around and at that point we lost the wheel.”
When air traffic control asked how they were planning to land, the pilot said, “We’re going to fly in as slowly as we can, and I think we’re going to put it on our stomachs.” Then he repeated that the right wheel of the plane fell off.
When the plane reached runway 5R-23L at Raleigh-Durham International Airport around 2:40 p.m., several law enforcement agencies were on standby.
There was one person on the plane, but no sign of Crooks, the second co-pilot.
Charles Hew Crooks, 23, died after falling or jumping from a small twin-engine plane during an emergency landing in Raleigh, North Carolina on Friday
The aircraft had to make an emergency landing after losing the right wheel during a previous attempt to land. The unidentified pilot on board asks air traffic control for help in a 40-minute recording
When asked how the pilot will land the plane, he said, “We’re going to fly in as slowly as we can and I think we’re going to put it on our stomachs.”
Crooks’ body was found 30 miles south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport in the trees of a property in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina
The pilot, whose name has not been released, suffered minor injuries. He was taken to Duke Hospital and released late Friday night.
He told authorities that before the emergency landing attempt, Crooks jumped out of the plane and believed to have jumped onto a body of water.
Investigators said Crooks either fell or jumped out of the plane without a parachute, WRAL News reported
But Crooks’ body was later found about 30 miles south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. He had landed between trees on a property in Compaign Cove in the town of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina.
The family living at the property said they made a loud bang and called the police.
Hew Crooks, the 23-year-old’s father, said flying was his son’s “lifetime dream”.
He said his son is a former flight instructor and is certified to fly in all conditions.
Hew Crooks told WRAL that Crooks recently told him he wouldn’t switch places with anyone in the world. He loved where he was.’
This map shows the area of North Carolina where Crook’s body was found after the plane he was piloting made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham Airport
Crooks pictured himself standing euphorically inside the plane with two other people, who have not been identified
Hew Crooks, the 23-year-old’s father, said flying was his son’s “lifetime dream”. He said his son is a former flight instructor and is certified to fly in all conditions
A photo of Crooks from his LinkedIn page. The young pilot wrote that he joined Rampart Aviation in March 2022. His role was pilot, second-in-command
The plane belonged to Rampart Aviation of Colorado. The company did not respond to ‘s request for comment. Crooks started working at the company five months ago, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident. When asked about the circumstances leading up to Crook’s death, spokesman Keith Holloway said, “No decision has been made at this point.”
“Currently, the NTSB is working with the FAA to gather information assessing the damage to the aircraft and the circumstances to determine the scope of an NTSB investigation,” NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway told on Sunday.
The small aircraft had a capacity of about 10 passengers and was not in commercial flight at the time of the incident.
Wake County Emergency Management Operations Manager Darshan Patel confirmed at a news conference Friday that Crooks was not wearing a parachute and it was unclear at the time how high the plane was when the young pilot exited.
The aircraft was a CASA C-212 Aviocar, manufactured in Spain in 1983, ABC7 News reported.
The plane took off from Raeford, a city in Hoke County, before making an emergency landing on runway 5R-23L at Raleigh-Durham International Airport around 2:40 p.m.
Crooks was a 2020 graduate of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. On his Instagram is a photo of him on a plane with the caption, “I’m just here to fly the planes.”