The pilot who fell out of an airplane to his death last month was upset after damaging the landing gear during an aborted, hard landing ... and there's a strong insinuation he may have jumped out ... according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Charlie Crooks was co-piloting the plane that was being used for skydiving runs back on July 29. Crooks was trying to land the plane when it "dropped" on final approach. Crooks struggled to get the plane back up but it hit the runway hard, damaging the right main landing gear.
The chief pilot told investigators Crooks became "visibly upset" about the hard landing, according to the NTSB. The pilot says Crooks opened his side window, complaining he "felt like he was going to be sick and needed air."
The pilot says Crooks got out of his seat, apologized and went to the back of the aircraft and opened the ramp door. The NTSB describes it this way ... Crooks "apologized, and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door." The word "departed" is ominous. The NTSB says the pilot did not witness Crooks grab a safety bar 6 feet above the ramp -- to prevent someone from falling -- before exiting the aircraft.
A good friend of Crooks told TMZ ... Crooks had told him the pilot had flown out from the company they worked for to certify him to become a chief pilot and Crooks was excited about the prospect. Making such a hard landing and damaging the gear would certainly have been upsetting if he was indeed trying to get certified.