NTSB Report Blames Earnhardt Jr. Plane Crash On Pilot

After just over a year, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report that concluded that pilot error was the primary cause of the crash of a small plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr., along with his wife and daughter on Aug. 15, 2019.

The report says:

“The pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”

To save you a trip to Google, a ‘go-around’ is when a pilot pulls out of a landing and gains altitude to make another attempt at landing.

The report went on to say:

“A postaccident examination of the airplane systems, structure, powerplants, and landing gear revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.”


“The flight crew made several comments about the airplane flying too fast and allowed the airspeed to increase well above the reference speed for the approach.”

The report found that the pilot did not extend the speed brakes upon touchdown which is mandated by the landing checklist. The pilot instead tried to deploy reverse thrusters. Essentially, the pilot’s actions combined with poor decision making was the cause of the crash.

Luckily, Earnhardt and everyone on board were able to escape with minor injuries by climbing out of the plane through the cabin door after the plane caught fire.

NTSB report Pilot Richard Pope said he was carrying extra speed on approach to the runway because the plane “slows down so easy.”

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