Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fatal Learjet Accident in Mexico City

A Learjet 45 carrying Mexican government officials crashed onto a Mexico City thoroughfare early last evening, November 4, 2008, killing all on board as well as a number of people on the ground. News media say that at least 40 people on the ground also suffered non-fatal injuries as a result of the crash and the fire that followed.

News reports about what happened are quite varied, but here is what Flight International had to say about the Mexico City crash:
The aircraft (XA-VMC) departed San Luis Potosi in the north at around 17:00 local time on 4 November and headed for Mexico City with eight people on board. At 18:42, when it was 5km (2.7nm) short of the airport, the aircraft came down shortly after the pilots had acknowledged a radio frequency change. The crash site is 5km short of the airport, with the aircraft heading for runway 23L or 23R. It crashed into one of the city's main thoroughfares, Reforma Avenue.
Flight International also mentioned that "early reports from unofficial air traffic control sources say the Learjet was following a Boeing 767 at less than the safe wake vortex separation distance."

Among those who perished were Juan Camilo Mouriño, 37, Mexico's interior minister, and José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, a security advisor to Mexico's president, and former deputy attorney general. Both were prominently involved in the Mexican government's anti-drug campaign, thus their deaths immediately sparked rumors of possible sabotage.

At a news conference earlier today, Mexico's Communication and Transportation Minister Luis Tellez said that the aircraft's flight data recorder had been recovered from the accident site. According to a Bloomberg article about the news conference, Tellez said, "We have no evidence that allows us to formulate a hypothesis that this isn't an accident. We will investigate all possibilities, though."

A short time ago the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that a team was being dispatched to assist Mexico with the accident investigation. The NTSB says the U.S. team will also include technical advisors from the NTSB, FAA, Learjet, and Honeywell International.

Here is an Associated Press video of the Learjet crash scene in Mexico City.

If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube. Tip of the hat to the Associated Press for posting the video on their YouTube channel.

UPDATE Nov. 6, 2008: Flight International published a new article today about the Learjet accident in Mexico City. It is worth taking a look at, since it includes some interesting graphics, as well as a link to audio of the last 4 minutes of radio contact between the Learjet crew and the Mexico City approach controller: PICTURES & AUDIO: Mexican government Learjet 45 crashes in Mexico City - Flight International, Nov. 6, 2008