Monday, October 15, 2018
Public safety

Florida pilots killed in South Carolina crash lacked certification to fly private jet

Pilots Stephen Fox and John Caswell had flown planes for thousands of hours between them at the time of a jet crash that claimed their lives last week in South Carolina.

But federal records show neither man had the certification required to fly the Dassault Falcon 50 jet that slid off the runway of the Greenville Downtown Airport on Thursday, killing both of them and injuring two passengers on board.

Authorities identified Caswell, 49, of Port St. Lucie, as the pilot, but he wasn’t certified to act as the "pilot in command" of a Falcon 50 jet, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airmen Registry. Caswell’s registry entry shows he has a "second-in-command privileges only" for that type of aircraft, meaning he could only fly as a co-pilot with someone who has a pilot-in-command rating.

Fox, a 66-year-old Indian Rocks Beach man who owns two Pinellas County-based flights services companies, was identified as the co-pilot, but no Stephen Fox or Stephen George Fox in the registry has a pilot-in-command or second-in-command rating for the Falcon 50. Fox was certified only for visual flight and didn’t have the rating required to fly an aircraft under instrument flight rules.

"He was not qualified to be on that flight deck, period," said Robert Katz, a Dallas, Texas-based flight instructor and veteran pilot who tracks plane crashes across the nation. "What we’re looking at here is an unqualified crew."

PREVIOUS: Flight service owner from Indian Rocks beach killed when his jet crashes in South Carolina

Pilots earn pilot-in-command certification from the FAA after completing hours of training specific to an aircraft. That Fox and Caswell lacked so-called type rating for the Falcon 50 indicates they haven’t had training for that jet, Katz said.

Caswell was certified as an air transport pilot and flight instructor and had type ratings to fly Lear and Gulfstream jets, FAA records show.

"Each aircraft is its own animal," Katz said. "We’re talking apples and oranges and pears."

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are investigating the crash. NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said Monday the agency is focused on collecting evidence at the scene and did not have information on the pilots’ ratings. FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen also could not confirm the pilots’ ratings but said the Airmen Registry reflects the latest information available.

An NTSB investigator said at a news conference last week that Caswell and Fox had significant experience flying, with Caswell logging 11,600 hours and Fox 5,500 hours. The investigator did not address which aircraft type ratings the pilots held.

Airport officials said the plane appeared to land normally about 1:40 p.m. but then slid off the runway and fell 40 to 50 feet down an embankment at the end of the runway, causing the fuselage split behind the cockpit. Caswell died at the scene. Fox was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Officials said visibility was not a factor in the crash.

Authorities said the two passengers on board were a married couple but have not released their names or where they live. The flight originated in St. Petersburg, according to the NTSB, but the airport has not been identified.

Fox is listed in Florida state records as the registered agent for Air America Flight Services Inc. and Clearwater Aviation. The companies are headquartered at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport and provide executive flight charters, aircraft management, maintenance services and pilot training, according to their websites. Air America also has a location in West Palm Beach.

A friend of Fox’s told the Tampa Bay Times last week that Fox ran the business with his sons. One of the sons, Travis Fox, declined to comment last week and did not immediately return messages this week.

A page on Air America’s site features photos of a Falcon 50, a sleek aircraft with three engines that seats nine in a plush, leather-appointed cabin. The jet has a range of 3,400 miles and top speed of 400 knots, the website says.

FAA records show the Falcon 50 that crashed is owned by Global Aircraft Acquisitions LLC of Delaware. The plane was manufactured in 1982, making it 36 years old.

It was still unclear Monday if the plane had been hired as a charter. If so, the pilots were violating regulations governing charter companies and putting their passengers at risk by flying without the proper qualifications, Katz said. He said such a violation could void any insurance coverage on the aircraft.

Violating charter regulations could also lead to sanctions for a charter company, including revocation of its air carrier certificate, said Jacqueline Rosser, senior advisor at the National Air Transportation Association, a trade group in Washington, D.C.

A preliminary crash report is expected in two to three weeks and a full report will take 12 to 18 months.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

Comments
Deputies: Mother dies after responders pull her, four children from tidal current at Pass-a-Grille

Deputies: Mother dies after responders pull her, four children from tidal current at Pass-a-Grille

ST. PETE BEACH — A Lakeland mother who went to Pass-a-Grille with her six children Saturday died after being caught in a tidal current, Pinellas deputies said.Samar Aboukhdair, 36, was out Saturday afternoon near the southernmost tip of the beach.Acc...
Updated: 2 hours ago
FHP: Man dead, woman critically injured in Brooksville motorcycle crash

FHP: Man dead, woman critically injured in Brooksville motorcycle crash

BROOKSVILLEmotorcyclist dies, passenger critical after crashA motorcyclist died and his passenger suffered critical injuries Saturday night after crashing into a car on Cortez Boulevard, Florida Highway Patrol troopers reported.William Richard Pennin...
Published: 10/14/18
FHP: Brooksville motorcyclist, 57, dies in crash with SUV

FHP: Brooksville motorcyclist, 57, dies in crash with SUV

NEW PORT RICHEY — A motorcyclist died Saturday night after a crash with a sport utility vehicle on Old County Road 54, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Terry Eugene Bennett, 57 of Brooksville, was riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle westbound ...
Published: 10/14/18
FHP: Tarpon Springs man hit by truck, killed, walking across U.S. 19

FHP: Tarpon Springs man hit by truck, killed, walking across U.S. 19

NEW PORT RICHEY — A man died walking across U.S. 19 Saturday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.About 9:40 p.m., the 50-year-old Tarpon Springs man was crossing from east to west near Catherine Street, south of Trouble Creek Road, trooper...
Published: 10/14/18
FHP: Pasco suspected kidnapper dies in fiery wrong-way crash while fleeing deputies

FHP: Pasco suspected kidnapper dies in fiery wrong-way crash while fleeing deputies

NEW PORT RICHEY — A driver fleeing Pasco deputies died Saturday night after crashing into a pickup truck, Florida Highway Patrol troopers reported.Michael A. Blomberg, 54, of Land O’Lakes, was suspected of kidnapping, according to the agency. Blomber...
Published: 10/14/18
New details emerge in fatal dog attack on Clearwater 7-month-old

New details emerge in fatal dog attack on Clearwater 7-month-old

Pamela Maser was bringing the baby a bottle when the dog started barking.Maser opened the kennel to take the dog outside. Instead, the retriever-hound mix ran toward 7-month-old Khloe Williams and attacked her.Maser separated the two, but the damage ...
Published: 10/13/18
Caribbean disturbance now has zero chance of development, forecasters say

Caribbean disturbance now has zero chance of development, forecasters say

Just two days after Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle, forecasters are now giving a disturbance in the Caribbean zero chance of development.
Published: 10/12/18
St. Petersburg police release videos of coyotes roaming city streets

St. Petersburg police release videos of coyotes roaming city streets

The St. Petersburg Police Department released a video of coyotes roaming the city's streets on Thursday afternoon.
Published: 10/12/18
Pinellas deputies arrest man accused of running Coquina Key drug house

Pinellas deputies arrest man accused of running Coquina Key drug house

Surveillance of a suspected drug house on Coquina Key led to the arrest Thursday of a man on several drug and gun charges.
Published: 10/12/18
Undercover sting leads to prostitution arrests at New Port Richey spas

Undercover sting leads to prostitution arrests at New Port Richey spas

NEW PORT RICHEY — The New Port Richey Police Department arrested the owner and two employees from the Kamura Spa and Miyako Spa Friday on charges of prostitution. Officers issued two search warrants for the two spas, both located along Highway U.S. 1...
Published: 10/12/18