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Unheeded Warnings

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Warning signs from previous test flights went unheeded before the fiery crash of a business jet being tested in New Mexico, killing four employees of Georgia-based Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., federal aviation officials said.

The Gulfstream GVI (G650) jet was taking off with a simulated engine failure when it rolled and crashed April 2, 2011, in Roswell.

Performance issues that arose during two earlier test flights weren’t properly evaluated, safety experts testified this week at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing in Washington, D.C.

“Two prior close calls should have prompted a yellow flag but instead of slowing down to analyze what had happened, the program continued full speed ahead,” NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said.

“This crash was as much an absence of leadership as it was of lift,” she added.

Video footage of the two earlier test flights, which took place in November 2010 and March 2011, was shown during the hearing.

“We saw an aggressive flight test schedule and pressure to get the aircraft certified,” she said. “Assumptions and errors were made, but they were neither reviewed nor evaluated when review data was collected.”

Hersman said at the close of the hearing that Gulfstream recognized that many changes needed to be made, and has begun to implement them.

The company has taken several steps to improve the plane and its testing program since the accident. Those steps include the appointment of an aviation safety official who reports directly to the firm’s president, Gulfstream spokeswoman Heidi Fedak said.

The aircraft received its FAA certification in September, and Gulfstream plans to deliver it to customers by the end of this year.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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