The Gulfstream G650 involved in the fatal crash that killed four company employees on 2 April was at a high angle of attack just before its right wingtip made contact with the runway, say those directly familiar with events of the accident.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says the wind was 15kts "directly from the left side of the aircraft" when the aircraft began its takeoff roll on Runway 21 at approximately 09:30 local time at Roswell International Air Center Airport in New Mexico.
Wingtip scrape marks appear on runway 21 roughly 1520m (5,000ft) before the end of the 3,960m (13,000ft) runway, which "lead toward the final resting spot approximately 3000 feet from the first marks on the runway," says the NTSB.
Witnesses near the scene say they saw the G650's landing gear collapse followed by "sliding on the ground with sparks and smoke and subsequent full involvement with fire while it was still moving," says the NTSB.
The aircraft then "came to rest upright and fully involved in flames approximately 61m (200 ft) from the base of the airport control tower".
Airport rescue and fire fighting teams responded quickly to the fire, which they fought for 15min after their arrival.
S/N 6002, registered N652GD, the second of five test aircraft validating the new large-cabin ultra-long range jet , had been out conducting 2.5h of take-off performance and braking evaluations prior to the accident, taking off on runway 21 with teardrop turns to downwind landings on runway 3 prior to the accident.
Participating along with the NTSB, is German safety investigator BFU, as the twin Rolls-Royce Deutschland BR700-725A1-12 engines are manufactured in Germany. Additionally, engine-maker Rolls-Royce and Parker Aerospace, which supplies the aircraft's fly-by-wire flight control system, are also party to the investigation along with Gulfstream.
Gulfstream, which has not said if it expects any impact to its 2011 US Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency certification, and planned deliveries in 2012, has halted all test operations on its four remaining test aircraft, under its own volition.
"I am confident that as Gulfstream assists aviation authorities in the accident investigation, the cause of this terrible tragedy will be determined," says Jay Johnson, who serves as General Dynamics CEO, parent company of Gulfstream Aerospace. "We look forward to continuing the rigorous testing required to achieve flight certification of the aircraft."
Source: Flight International