Loss of control Accident Learjet 35A N720RA, Tuesday 5 January 2010
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Date:Tuesday 5 January 2010
Type:Silhouette image of generic LJ35 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Learjet 35A
Owner/operator:Royal Air Freight
Registration: N720RA
MSN: 35A-156
Year of manufacture:1977
Total airframe hrs:15734 hours
Engine model:Garrett TFE731-2-2B
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed, written off
Location:ca 2,5 km S of Chicago-Executive Airport, IL (PWK) -   United States of America
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:Pontiac-Oakland County International Airport, MI (PTK/KPTK)
Destination airport:Chicago-Executive Airport, IL (PWK/KPWK)
Investigating agency: NTSB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
A Learjet plane, operating as Royal Air Freight flight RAX988, was destroyed when it impacted water and terrain while maneuvering to final approach to runway 34 at Chicago Executive Airport (PWK). The wreckage came to rest on the west bank of the Des Plaines River, in a forest preserve south of the airport. Both pilots were killed in the accident.
The flight departed Pontiac-Oakland County International Airport, MI (PTK) at 13:35 and was scheduled to pickup cargo at Chicago-Executive Airport, IL (PWK).
During the descent and 14 minutes before the accident, the airplane encountered a layer of moderate rime ice. The captain, who was the pilot flying, and the first officer, who was the monitoring pilot, made multiple statements which were consistent with their awareness and presence of airframe icing. After obtaining visual flight rules conditions, the flight crew cancelled the instrument flight rules clearance and continued with a right, circling approach to runway 34. While turning into the base leg of the traffic pattern, and 45 seconds prior to the accident, the captain called for full flaps and the engine power levers were adjusted several times between 50 and 95 percent. In addition, the captain inquired about the autopilot and fuel balance. In response, the first officer stated that he did not think that the spoilerons were working. Shortly thereafter, the first officer gave the command to add full engine power and the airplane impacted terrain.
There was no evidence of flight crew impairment or fatigue in the final 30 minutes of the flight. The cockpit voice recorder showed multiple instances during the flight in which the airplane was below 10,000 feet mean sea level that the crew was engaged in discussions that were not consistent with a sterile cockpit environment, for example a lengthy discussion about Class B airspeeds, which may have led to a relaxed and casual cockpit atmosphere. In addition, the flight crew appears to have conducted checklists in a generally informal manner. As the flight was conducted by a Part 135 operator, it would be expected that both pilots were versed with the importance of sterile cockpit rules and the importance of adhering to procedures, including demonstrating checklist discipline.

For approximately the last 24 seconds of flight, both pilots were likely focusing their attention on activities to identify and understand the reason for the airplane's roll handling difficulties, as noted by the captain's comment related to the fuel balance. These events, culminating in the first officer's urgent command to add full power, suggested that neither pilot detected the airplane's decaying energy state before it reached a critical level for the conditions it encountered.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "A loss of control for undetermined reasons."

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Report number: CEN10MA088
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 6 months
Download report: Final report





photo (c) NTSB; near Chicago-Executive Airport, IL (PWK); January 2010; (publicdomain)

Revision history:


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