NTSB releases cause of 747 crash piloted by former MN man

This video, from 2013, might be the most shocking video of an aviation disaster ever recorded.

A Boeing 747 crashed while taking off from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

A former Pine Island, Minn., man, Jeremy Lipka, 37, of Brooklyn, Mich., was the pilot.

Today, the National Transportation Safety Board released the cause.

The plane had been improperly loaded, it said in a summary released this afternoon.

The airplane’s cargo included five mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles secured onto pallets and shoring. Two vehicles were 12-ton MRAP all-terrain vehicles (M-ATVs) and three were 18-ton Cougars. The cargo represented the first time that National Airlines had attempted to transport five MRAP vehicles. These vehicles were considered a special cargo load because they could not be placed in unit load devices (ULDs) and restrained in the airplane using the locking capabilities of the airplane’s main deck cargo handling system.

Instead, the vehicles were secured to centerline-loaded floating pallets and restrained to the airplane’s main deck using tie-down straps. During takeoff, the airplane immediately climbed steeply then descended in a manner consistent with an aerodynamic stall.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation found strong evidence that at least one of the MRAP vehicles (the rear M-ATV) moved aft into the tail section of the airplane, damaging hydraulic systems and horizontal stabilizer components such that it was impossible for the flight crew to regain pitch control of the airplane.

The likely reason for the aft movement of the cargo was that it was not properly restrained. National Airlines’ procedures in its cargo operations manual not only omitted required, safety-critical restraint information from the airplane manufacturer (Boeing) and the manufacturer of the main deck cargo handling system (Telair, which held a supplemental type certificate [STC] for the system) but also contained incorrect and unsafe methods for restraining cargo that cannot be contained in ULDs. The procedures did not correctly specify which components in the cargo system (such as available seat tracks) were available for use as tie-down attach points, did not define individual tie-down allowable loads, and did not describe the effect of measured strap angle on the capability of the attach fittings.

Because the load had shifted to the rear of the plane and damaged the controls, there was no way for the pilot to do the one thing that could’ve kept the plane flying: pointing the nose down to pick up airspeed.

The person in charge of loading the aircraft had been on duty for 21 hours, the NTSB said. And he was not trained in how to load the equipment.

The agency also said only one — not five — of the vehicles could have been safely transported in a 747.

Killed along with Lipka were Jamie Brokaw, 33, of Monrole, Mich.; Gary Stockdale, 51, of Romulus, Mich.; pilots Brad Hasler, 34, of Trenton, Mich.; first officer Rinku Summan, 32, of Canton, Mich.; loadmaster Michael Sheets, 36, of Ypsilanti, Mich.; and maintenance crewman Timothy Garrett, 51, of Louisville, Ky.