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Safety Board Blames Pilots for Corporate Jet Crash

July 8, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Transportation Safety Board ruled Wednesday that pilot error probably caused the crash of a corporate jet in north Georgia last year that killed six executives of an Alabama grocery store chain.

The board said Capt. John J. Tesney, pilot of the jet owned by Bruno’s Inc., should not have taken off from Richard B. Russell Airport in Rome, Ga., last Dec. 11 because of low visibility.

The board also said that Tesney and his first officer, Robert B. Stamps, ″failed to maintain awareness of their proximity to the terrain″ after the plane was airborne.

Tesney, Stamps and seven executives - six from Bruno’s and one from the company’s ad agency - were killed when the plane crashed into the side of Lavender Mountain west of Rome. The executives were on a pre-Christmas public relations tour of their stores in Georgia and Alabama.

″The bottom line was the absence of some discipline in the cockpit,″ said Susan M. Coughlin, acting chairman of the safety board.

Mrs. Coughlin said Tesney and Stamps did not go through a pre-departure checklist required of all pilots and did not obtain approval of an instrument flight rules plan before taking off into a known area of mountainous terrain.

″All of those things really were working against the safety of this flight,″ she said.

The board also criticized Bruno’s for not having any company policies concerning the safe operation of their aircraft.

In response to the findings, Bruno’s Chairman Ronald G. Bruno issued a brief statement saying the company cooperated with the federal probe and appreciated ″the thoroughness of this investigation.″

His statement did not address the safety board’s criticism of the Birmingham-based company.

Mrs. Coughlin said Tesney might have been under some pressure from Bruno’s executives to take off despite the low visibility, since they were running late on their tightly scheduled store visit tour.

As a result of the accident, the board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration expand the list of aircraft that must be equipped with ground proximity warning systems to include all turbojets with six or more passenger seats.

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