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Pilot: Jet that Burned at Oroville Airport Wouldn’t Fly

SACRAMENTO (AP) — The pilot of a charter jet that skidded off an Oroville runway and burst into flames last month reported that he couldn’t get the plane off the ground despite repeated attempts, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary accident report Thursday.

Both pilots and all eight passengers, executives of an Atlanta-based package company, escaped uninjured.

The Delta Private Jets pilot felt “just a weird sensation” as he pulled the yoke back and the airplane didn’t lift off. He told investigators that he tried again and the aircraft’s nose still wouldn’t lift.

The two pilots then aborted the takeoff without leaving the ground, applying “full thrust reversers and maximum braking.”

The twin-engine Cessna Citation kept going nearly 2,000 feet (609 meters) past the end of the Oroville Municipal Airport runway, crossing a ditch and skidding across a grass-covered area. There it sparked a fire that eventually destroyed most of the aircraft.

Tire marks continued the entire length of the runway, across an adjacent perpendicular runway, a taxiway, and then into the grassy area near the main wreckage.

The preliminary report offers no conclusion or speculation on what caused the problem, and a final report isn’t expected for months. The report makes it clear that the fire that mostly consumed the aircraft started after it came to rest on its wings and fuselage in the dry grass.

Officials briefly closed nearby Highway 162 before firefighters controlled the grass fire at less than 2 acres. The pilots and passengers were safely off the plane by the time the first firefighters arrived.

The flight was trying to take off before noon on Aug. 21 under clear skies and light winds, headed to Portland, Oregon, from the airport about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Sacramento.

It was carrying eight executives from Graphics Packaging International, including CEO Michael Doss. The company makes packaging and containers for food, drinks and other consumer goods, and the executives were touring company plants on the West Coast including one in Oroville.

No passengers are quoted in the preliminary report.

Delta Airlines previously said the two pilots have 11,000 hours of flight time between them. Online records show no other accidents or incidents involving the aircraft.

The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment on investigators’ preliminary report.

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