Defense Gives Alternative Theory in 2005 Teterboro Airport Crash

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    A CL-600 Challenger corporate jet sits partially inside a warehouse after crashing while trying to take off from Teterboro Airport.

    An adviser to a charter jet company whose plane crashed at Teterboro Airport in 2005 testified Wednesday that he believed mechanical failure caused the crash, a conclusion at odds with the official version that blamed the company for alleged
    unsafe practices.

    Randy Williams' testimony came during direct questioning by Michael Salnick, attorney for Platinum Jet Management co-founder
    Michael Brassington. Brassington, his brother Paul and former PJM maintenance head Brien McKenzie are charged with conspiracy and lying to authorities.

    Michael Brassington also is charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft, a more serious charge that carries a 20-year
    maximum sentence.

    A charter jet operated by Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based PJM carrying 11 people crashed into a warehouse on takeoff from
    Teterboro Airport, injuring 20 people, four seriously.

    A National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that the plane's center of gravity was too far forward, and
    prosecutors have contended that was because the plane was overloaded with fuel in violation of Federal Aviation
    Administration regulations.

    But Williams, an FAA inspector who was on leave from his job at the time of the crash and was hired by PJM to consult on the
    investigation, testified he felt a mechanical failure involving the yoke, or the plane's steering wheel, prevented the plane from
    getting airborne.

    Pilot John Kimberling ``insisted over and over, 'As hard as I could pull, the yoke would not move,''' Williams said. ``I saw data
    that led me to believe there was a mechanical failure and that weight and balance wouldn't have become an issue.''

    Earlier Wednesday, the government rested its case with testimony from an expert whose conclusions echoed the official NTSB report, which contradicted Williams' version.

    According to the indictment unsealed last year, PJM illegally ran commercial charters without proper certification and then,
    after piggybacking on another company's certificate, continued to break the stricter safety rules that govern commercial charters.
    Three former company executives already have pleaded guilty.

    Among the company's clients were sports figures and entertainers such as Jay-Z and Beyonce, Luciano Pavarotti, Joe Montana and Burt Reynolds.

    Williams is expected to be cross-examined by the government Friday, after which defense attorneys are expected to conclude
    their case.