By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal safety board on Tuesday blamed a Florida-based air charter company and its flight crew for the crash of a Hawker 700 business jet that killed nine passengers and crew when it plowed into an apartment building last year.
But the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board also said the Federal Aviation Administration had played a role in the crash, failing to provide adequate oversight of pilot training and flight operations at ExecuFlight LLC, the charter company that operated the business jet.
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The captain and first officer aboard the aircraft, both of whom had been fired by previous employers before being hired by ExecuFlight, mismanaged the approach to Akron airport in Ohio and deviated from safety standards, as the jet stalled before crashing 1.8 miles from the airport runway, the NTSB said.
The crash killed seven employees and executives at Florida-based Pebb Enterprises, a real estate firm, and the two crew members.
ExecuFlight did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The company said in an Oct. 4 letter to the NTSB that it "had in place a robust safety culture," sent pilots to an industry-leading training center and had appropriate operating procedures.
The board said the captain failed to get adequate rest before the flight that departed from nearby Dayton and left the landing to the first officer. Even though the first officer "placed the airplane in danger," the pilot never took control of the plane, the NTSB said.
ExecuFlight suggested in its Oct. 4 letter that air traffic control errors and inadequate air traffic control communication to the flight crew had played a role in the crash.
The NTSB said the pilot had been fired from his most recent previous employer for failure to attend training, while the first officer was fired for "significant performance deficiencies." The NTSB said "no follow up" was made by ExecuFlight to evaluate why they were let go.
ExecuFlight told NTSB it "thoroughly interviewed and investigated" both before hiring them.
The NTSB made a number of recommendations to the FAA, calling for changes in policy to address the 2015 ExecuFlight crash. The FAA said in a statement it "will carefully review the NTSB's recommendations and respond within 90 days."
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Tom Brown)