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LearJet 35 flight goes down prior to landing at KSEE

I pulled this audio after getting multiple media reports of the event. Nothing apparent in the audio as to cause. Caution: strong language in the audio. ( More...

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bbabis 10
No reason not to stay with the straight in RW17 in an LJ35. Not sure what the thought was to prefer circling at night in poor weather with high terrain. There is a reason that there are no approaches to RW27. RIP
Runway 17 is too short. 27R was the way to go.
That is a real head scratcher, isn't it?
Went into an unrecoverable stall due to too low airspeed when turning for final approach.
Peter Fuller 1
Yes it is. It’s known what happened, but not why. NTSB will investigate and eventually produce a probable-cause report, but, since there likely weren’t any onboard data or voice recorders, and sadly everyone on board died, determining why the pilots made the decisions they did borders on the impossible.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Brian Freeman 16
@ bent - So unfortunate that otherwise credible people have to needlessly insert inane political opinions in their comments and ding their credibility.
Jeff Phipps 14
Just couldn't resist inserting your political views into something that was as apolitical as a private jet crash, could you?
I've got more than a "couple of hours" in Learjets myself, and have also operated Learjets out of that airport.

I'm agreeing with bbabis. I can't understand why the guy did what he did. PARTICULARLY if he's familiar with the airport and it's surroundings.

Runway 17 would normally be adequate for a 35, but with a wet runway and if he needed the 135 factor it wouldn't have been "legal". The PIC should have known that prior to takeoff from SNA.

Tower was calling the wind 190 at 6 so approach and the tower are going to default to runway 17 as it's not their job to figure out required runway length.

Personally, I'd have asked for the RNAV 9L approach. Unlike 27R it does not have a displaced threshold.

Perhaps the story can be inferred by comparing the RNAV 17 circling minimums to the last ADS-B hits and his request to turn up the airport lights?

For now, we'll just have to wait for the NTSB before we'll know for sure.
bentwing60 6
Perhaps you could review the RNAV 9L approach plate and note, NA for category C or D aircraft and circle to land northeast for 27R NA for the 17 approach. 27R was the runway they normally used. The only other approach they could 'legally' use was the LOC-D and the weather was too low for that. Anyone who thinks an early series Lear is anything but a category D airplane in the circle to land approach has more to learn or no survival skills!

They cancelled IFR because what they did was not authorized as such and with no other favorable choice, other than an alternate, was probably what they 'usually' did and the entire point of my comment. We are creatures of habit and the bigger picture may escape the less experienced crew or the weather a little worse than expected. Flying IFR in jets is the ultimate video game and any one who doesn't believe that must not have watched the ring camera videos of this unfortunate accident.
John May 7
I learned to fly at SEE many years ago. There is a mountain northeast of the field that now is mostly developed with homes. If he was doing a left circle to land from 17 to 27R, the mountain would have been directly in front of him as he was on the base portion of the turn to 27R. If you overshoot the runway center line, you're in the mountain. There is a localizer approach to 27R but the minimums are high to stay above the mountain. The runway center line is only about 900' south of where the slope for the mountain starts. The power lines are probably no more than 40' off the ground and service the homes in the area. No high voltage towers in the area.
WeatherWise 6
The terrain rises rapidly just north of 27R. On a circle to land approach from 17, in last nights conditions, there would be no room for error. Just like the Truckee crash in July, too tight a turn and he stalled the aircraft. The Nest cam video clearly shows the attempt at a turn to final for 27R while in and out of cloud and rain.
Roy Hunte 1
I read something earlier about the aircraft hitting power lines, are there power lines in that area?
WeatherWise 4
Yes there are. Judging by the flash before ground impact, he struck those first as he was coming down.
Roy Hunte 0
Maybe that is what he was screaming about then.
Roy Hunte 4
Or maybe he was screaming because he couldn't do anything.
John Redmond 5
The video is hard to watch. I can't bring myself to listen to the audio.

Political comments are stupid, unprofessional, and detract from the poster's credibility. Worse, they are disrespectful to those who lost there lives, so know it off. Facts, evidence, and analysis count.
Martin Shives 4
Couple of things and agreeing with much that Brian Anderson commented below. I am just a private pilot with an instrument rating (about 5,500 TT familiar with night IMC into that airspace) - based at MYF (5 miles away) for 35 years; no Lear (or jet) experience. (1) first a note - there IS an approach to 27 (LOC-D) (flown it many times) - minimums are higher AND Final Approach Fix (FAF) is higher AND routing would have been longer. (2) Could not hear the audio, but the generic landing distance for a Lear 35A is 4,333 and RWY 17 is 4135 (200 feet shorter than needed without the possibility of water being a factor - legal or not) with RWY 27R being 5,342 - maybe the pilot wanted the extra 1,200 feet. (3) they were coming down the coast - against the normal flow of SOCAL traffic routes which gave them a much shorter trip and over lower terrain and without traffic conflicts with Lindbergh KSAN). (4) as a practical matter, for the LOC-D, ATC would have vectored them higher to BARET (or maybe even out to JLI) with an FAF at SAMOS of 4000 feet versus 2,500 feet at JUGAL for the RNAV 17 approach. Sadly, being based at the field appears to led the crew to believe they could maneuver in the pattern. There is a well-known hill just to the north of the LOC-D centerline that is part of why that approach is used for Instrument checkrides. No matter what, obviously, a VERY sad event.
bobby davis 6
I agree, sounds like he cancelled IFR and requested the runway change. He may have mistaken the street lights for the runway. Tragic.
Check out the ADSB data
The last ADS-B "hits" seem to show him well below circling minimums? Wonder if that's why he wanted to cancel IFR??
David Luddy 3
Seems to soon pinpointing the cause. We can all make assumptions. I have them however will wait until further data.
mark archacki 3
This video talks about the crash victims. Sad that some great people lost their lives.
WeatherWise 4
I live in San Diego. Weather was not good. Once again a circling approach goes horribly wrong. He was on the instrument approach to Runway 17, plenty long for his aircraft, so why the need to put yourself in an even more dangerous situation by doing this?
Silent Bob 2
I haven't flown the Lear 35 so I can't say whether or not Rwy 17 is "plenty long", but with the displaced threshold the landing distance available is less than 4000 feet - 3695 to be exact. Runway 27R, also having a displaced threshold has a landing distance available of 4636, so just about 1000 feet more. Also I see the VASI for Rwy 17 is NOTAM'd out of service. Considering the poor weather, not having visual vertical guidance to the runway could also be a factor in choosing to circle. Easy to armchair QB and say they never should have done it, but it probably sounded reasonable in their minds especially if they were based at SEE and familiar with the airport.
bentwing60 -2
"Easy to armchair QB and say they never should have done it, but it probably sounded reasonable in their minds especially if they were based at SEE and familiar with the airport."

S.B., you hit the nail on the head! With ample experience in the early LearJet series, (20's and 35's), 3695 feet is Not "plenty long", especially with a contaminated runway! He was circling for all he could get. And they were goin' home. WW, (above), consult a Lear 35 QRH and get off the xbox.

These airplanes, in the early days, separated the wheat from the chafe quickly, pilot wise, starting with figuring out how to properly open and close the door without falling on your head to passing a 135 checkride that was almost always performed in a real airplane.

The 35A, especially after RVSM mods, was the most 'docile', a term not often connected to early series Lears, but certainly no paper tiger. RIP to the crew and Medtechs, a taxing and difficult job that really knows no weekends, holidays or foul weather breaks. That's when the drunks and idiots wreck their cars, O.D. or whatever to prove that good judgement and considered restraint are not all that common in the species.
WeatherWise 8
We're all "armchair QB's" here, including YOU. No matter how you call it, the PIC f*cked up an already botched approach and paid the ultimate price. Get off my Xbox??? Way too old for that silliness.
Dear Mr. DeTour I'm not talking about horizonal rotating fronts. It has been known for a long time that horizontal fronts, vortexes, can be turned into the vertical making a mesocyclone which is the forerunner of a tornado. My research has found that is how tornadoes are formed and how all other landspout vortexes are formed, from any hot air source. I have a very good satellite view of the vortexes formed causing the Santee, California plane crash of February 6, 2008 to show you, if I could figure out how to put it on this website.
Kevin Keswick 3
Video of the crash (copy and past link)
Kevin Keswick 3
It sounds like one of the last things that the pilot said was "can you turn up the lights a bit more" and then it sounds to me like the tower replies "they are at 100% now"

There was a change of runway at the last minute at the pilots request

Here is a picture of the actual jet
sharon bias 1
Latest update. This was a Medivac plane, and it appears all killed were employee's.
Highflyer1950 1
I’d be interested in the companies SOP’s as to why, when circling for 27R after flying the approach to 17 why not circle southwest either VFR or IFR for 27R. Seems kinda stupid for company ops to approve circling southeast with the surrounding terrain. I guess the TEB accident didn't teach everyone! Also like to see their CRM discussions with the DFO & CP for shooting a stabilized IFR approach only to wind up in the end with a Bob Hooverish (no offence) performance well beyond their capabilities.
Peter Fuller 2
“..after flying the approach to 17 why not circle southwest either VFR or IFR for 27R.”
@Highflyer1950 perhaps you meant to suggest circle southwest for 9L ?
That's an excellent point. While everyone would prefer to circle to the left, if he's worried about landing length on a wet runway then 9L with no threshold displacement makes far more sense than 27R with the displaced threshold and high terrain issues.

Tower told him winds were 190 at 6 knots, so wind was really not that big a factor regarding runway choice.
Actually, why circle at all? If he's sweating the wet runway length numbers, he should have asked for the RNAV 9L approach to start with. Like I said on this board earlier, this one is a head scratcher...
I don’t think RNAV 9L is available for that category aircraft.
In general, vary sad situation. Being a San Diegan and having visited Gillespie Field for various reasons and events. I am saddened this event occurred and honestly shocked.

Now, if I could just figure out how to make the font large enough for a blind person such as myself available to read without having to lean farther into the screen.
Try Ctrl + or Shift +
You can do it several times until a maximum is reached.
gilgraham 1
After reading these comments, it appears he cancelled IFR since circling was N/A and the weather wasn't all that good. That's a neat trick. At least he was "legal" when he crashed. Another observation - if vis was reduced, he may have been turning a little tight to keep the airport in sight. I don't fly a Lear, but the 125kts indicated on flightaware seams a little slow for a tight turn...
Robert Roush 1
As someone who is not a pilot, but with an above average understanding of aviation, why would a pilot choose to cancel IFR in bad weather? I would think that would be a stupid idea.
gilgraham 2
Robert - You have to land straight in on the runway for which the approach you are flying, OR you can "circle to land" on another runway. According to other's posts, circling was "Not Authorized" for this approach. Therefore, he cancelled IFR to "legally" fly to another runway to land. Not necessarily stupid, but it didn't work out well this time. In aviation, there's numerous examples of the difference in being legal and safe, this is one of them.
Steve Mayer 1
Looking at the flight path to the point of the circle to land segment, it shows a pretty severe banking turn which could have led to an approach to landing stall. There is some Ring doorbell footage that shows the aircraft overhead and turning rather tightly. Then it appears to almost start to roll over. The poor viz makes it hard to determine that. Engines sounded fine. I don't like to speculate but it is a very abrupt ending after the pilot exchange with the controller. I think it was loss of control and awareness.
ewrcap 1
I flew the LR-35 years ago. Nice plane, not that hard to fly but like most high performance jets, very unforgiving if you get slow in a steep turn. There are dozens of accidents in the books just like this and several recent ones. . Lears, Gulfstream, Canadair etc. I fly in and out of Aspen occasionally and can remember. LR-35 and Gulfstream crashing under similar circumstances.
sharon bias 1
Very small debris field. Not a lot of identifiable parts. Weather at approximate time of crash was rain with 4 miles visibility.
Kevin Keswick 1
N880Z Aircraft Registration




Serial Number 591
I have been the studing plane accidents for over 6 years now. I have found that a number of plane accidents are being caused by planes flying into landspouts (vortexes) or weak tornadoes. I found that the Gillespie, CA. plane crash of December 27, 2021, flew into a vortex created by front passing through at that time. My research shows there has to be at least a 58 knot or above jet stream to create a vortex. The jet stream at the time of this accident was 132 knots. Researching the plane crash in Santee, CA on October 11, 2021, once again there was a front passing through and the jet stream velocity was 111 knots. The vortexes can even be seen on zoom earth satellite views.
Jim DeTour 0
Roll clouds never popped up I guess. Those vortices do depart from horizontal in front of a front into however many parts going wh whichever orientation fits conditions. You're lucky if conditions are right to pick out a roll cloud visually. It's the same as a tornado on its side weak or strong forming from the air being drawn in by convective activity with the spin created by wind meeting the front. You don't need jet streams or high altitude interactions. Just mother nature doing her thing. Norman Oklahoma when the Extreme Weather department was there got great pictures of a well defined roll cloud passing over the airport where they were co located. They got good pictures of all the planes that got tossed around too and the roll cloud never departed from altitude while passing over. Don't play near fronts and watch out for updrafts when the bottom of cloud bases appear to be boiling looking all bumpy. Although you'll learn to maintain altitude diving 40 degrees down or more. My commercial instrument instructor gave me a taste of that one. It works to never forget to pay attention to mother natures clues.
Steve Aliamus -3
This is a duplicate post. Another user posted earlier. Please delete this squawk.
Steve Aliamus -3
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Four Dead After Learjet Crashes East of Gillespie Field in San Diego County

A private jet with four people aboard crashed in a residential neighborhood near El Cajon on Monday, and authorities reported no survivors.


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