The National Transportation Safety Board determined today that the probable cause of a 2003 Learjet accident near Helendale, California was the loss of airplane control for undetermined reasons. On December 23, 2003 a Learjet 24B, N600XJ, registered to Pavair, Inc., Santa Monica, California, departed San Bernardino County Airport, Chino, California and was destined for Friedman Memorial Airport, Hailey, Idaho.
Twelve minutes after the flight departed, the crew requested to return to San Bernardino's airport. However, the first officer informed the air traffic controller he did not need to declare an emergency. Less than two minutes later, the airplane was descending through 23,000 feet at a rate of 10,000 feet per minute and the first officer declared an emergency. No further transmission was received from the airplane before it crashed near Helendale, California. The pilot and first officer were killed and the airplane was destroyed.
The airplane was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder and Federal regulations did not require them. Although primary and secondary flight controls were identified, impact damage precluded any determination of pre-impact control system continuity and there were no useful remnants from the cockpit instrument panel. Impact damage precluded a determination of whether the engines were operating at impact. There was no evidence of an in-flight fire.
"This is another example of where a recording device - whether a voice recorder, data recorder or a video recorder - would have greatly helped investigators determined what happened," NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said. An opportunity to improve aviation safety was lost here." A synopsis of the report can be found on the Board's website, www.ntsb.gov. The complete report will be added to the web shortly.