NTSB report rules out turbulence during in-flight incident that killed former Clinton and Obama official Dana Hyde

March 26, 2023
Ben Marquis

On March 3, a former official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, who also worked on the 9/11 Commission, died from injuries sustained during an in-flight incident aboard a private jet that initially was attributed as likely being due to the aircraft hitting severe turbulence.

A preliminary report on the incident has now revealed that the incident that resulted in the death of Dana Hyde, 55, was not due to turbulence at all but rather a significant problem with the aircraft's stabilizing controls that caused the jet to violently pitch up and down, the Conservative Brief reported.

Initial reports blamed turbulence

In the first few days after the deadly incident, the Associated Press had reported that the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation was looking into a "reported trim issue" with the private jet, a Canadian-manufactured Bombardier Challenger 300, with "trim" being a reference to the adjustable control surfaces on the wings and tail of the aircraft.

There had been known trim issues with that particular jet and the Federal Aviation Administration had even directed pilots a year earlier to undergo an expanded pre-flight checklist to guard against the problem that involved a horizontal stabilizer and would cause the nose of the craft to pitch in the opposite direction of what the pilot would attempt to do.

At that time, however, it was still suspected that severe turbulence had violently buffeted the plane and caused Hyde to suffer injuries and forced the pilots to make an emergency landing in Hartford, Connecticut. Hyde was later pronounced dead at a hospital, and the medical examiner determined that she had died of blunt force trauma injuries.

Hyde had been a passenger on the private jet along with her husband, Jonathan Chambers, and their son on a flight that was supposed to take them from New Hampshire to Virginia. They were the only passengers on board the jet that was owned by the company that Chambers worked for.

No turbulence, but issues with aircraft and pilots

Though the investigation remains ongoing, the NTSB on Friday issued a four-page preliminary report on the March 3 in-flight incident that documented a series of apparent problems and possible miscues by the crew that ultimately resulted in the unfortunate death of the passenger.

A cover on a vital probe had been missed during the pre-flight inspection, which led to an aborted takeoff and shutdown of an engine so that it could be removed. Upon refiring the engine, the pilot and co-pilot then received numerous warnings and advisories about other possible issues, but proceeded with a second takeoff and climbed toward cruising altitude.

More warnings went off as the jet was around 6,000 feet in the air, including one about the autopilot holding the craft's nose down as well as another about a failure of the primary stabilizer trim, and the crew worked through a checklist to address the reported issues.

One step in that checklist involved turning off the primary stabilizer trim, which also turned off the autopilot, and immediately after that switch was flipped the jet's nose suddenly pitched up at a sharp angle, then back down into a dive before shooting back up at an even steeper angle before the pilot eventually regained control, after which it was learned that the passenger had been injured and the emergency landing was made in Hartford.

The report further pointed out that there was no "remarkable turbulence" during the flight, highlighted the wild fluctuations in gravitational forces during the up and down pitches, and also took note that while both pilots had thousands of hours of flight time overall, neither had more than 100 hours at the controls of this particular jet.

Likely thrown around cabin during steep climbs and dives

While the specific injuries suffered by Hyde during the in-flight incident remain unknown, The Washington Post reported that the NTSB's preliminary report seems consistent with how her husband, Chambers, had described what happened in an email to colleagues and clients, in which he wrote that "the plane suddenly convulsed in a manner that violently threw the three of us. My wife was badly injured."

If Hyde was not wearing a seatbelt during the incident, it is quite likely that she may have been thrown around the cabin or hit by loose objects with much greater force than normal due to the intense gravitational forces in the steep climbs and dives that reportedly exceeded four times the normal force of gravity.

Jeff Guzzetti, a former FAA and NTSB investigator, told the Post, "Four G’s. That’s four times your body weight. Objects that were 100 pounds were now weighing 400 pounds, and moving in an up or down direction," and added, "That’s a tremendous amount of G force for an airplane to experience."

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