Saturday, January 16, 2010

First NTSB report on the Royal Air Freight Learjet accident in Illinois

by B. N. Sullivan

NTSB logoThe U. S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released preliminary information regarding the fatal crash of a Learjet 35A in Illinois earlier this month. The accident, which occurred January 5, 2010, at 13:28 CST near Chicago Executive Airport (PWK), claimed the lives of both pilots on board.

According to the NTSB report, the aircraft (registration N720RA), operated by Royal Air Freight as flight RAX 988, had departed Pontiac, Michigan, at 13:35 EST. The Learjet, which was operating under Part 91 rules as a positioning flight, impacted water and terrain while maneuvering to final approach to runway 34 at PWK.

Quoting from the NTSB preliminary report:
Preliminary air traffic control communications and radar data revealed the flight was cleared for a visual approach to runway 16, followed by a right traffic, circle to land approach to runway 34. Radar data showed the airplane enter a right traffic pattern for approach to runway 34. Several witnesses observed the airplane on downwind, base leg, and enter a right turn for final approach. During the right turn to final approach, the airplane was observed to enter a 90-degree bank right turn, roll inverted, and enter a nose down descent toward terrain.
Wreckage of the accident aircraft was located in the Des Plaines River, approximately 2 miles south of the centerline of PWK's runway 34. The wreckage has been removed to a storage facility for further examination. The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was recovered from the river and sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders laboratory for examination and readout.

Regarding the pilots, the captain was hired by Royal Air Freight in October 2003, and had accumulated approximately 7,000 total flight hours, and approximately 3,500 hours in Learjets. The first officer was hired in February 2005, and had accumulated approximately 7,000 total flight hours, and approximately 3,000 hours in Learjets.

The NTSB investigation is continuing.