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N781RS accident description

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Crash location 39.313056°N, 120.124445°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Truckee, CA
39.327962°N, 120.183253°W
3.3 miles away

Tail number N781RS
Accident date 28 Dec 2005
Aircraft type Learjet 35A
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On December 28, 2005, about 1406 Pacific standard time, a Gates Learjet, 35A, N781RS, descended into the ground while maneuvering at a low altitude onto a short final approach leg for runway 28 at the Truckee-Tahoe Airport, Truckee, California. Witnesses observed the airplane overshoot its final approach leg turn, enter a steep left bank back toward the runway's extended centerline, and rapidly descend until impacting the ground about 1/3-mile from the approach end of the runway. The airplane was owned and operated by RSB Investments, Inc., Washington, Pennsylvania, d.b.a. Skyward Aviation. The airplane was destroyed during the impact and post crash fire. The airline transport certificated captain and the commercial certificated first officer sustained fatal injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed. The purpose of the flight was to reposition the airplane to Truckee in order to pickup passengers awaiting transportation to another location. The accident flight was performed under the provisions of 14 CFR 91, and it originated from Twin Falls, Idaho, about 1257. (All times used in this report have been converted to Pacific standard time.) The operator reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that the subsequent on-demand air taxi flight was to be performed under the provisions of 14 CFR 135.

According to information received from the Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), the airplane's crew was cleared to perform the VOR/DME RNAV (GPS-A) approach to the Truckee-Tahoe Airport. According to the operator, the captain was likely the flying pilot and in the cockpit's left seat. The operator's review of air traffic communications revealed that the first officer was making all of the radio transmissions during the approach.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recorded radar data indicates that the airplane proceeded on a southeasterly course toward the airport (runway 10/28) while descending past the Lolla initial approach fix (IAF), as published for the GPS-A approach. The first officer informed the ARTCC radar controller that the Truckee weather had been received. Thereafter, the airplane descended below the minimum altitude for which the FAA records radar data. Passing Lolla, the Oakland radar controller advised the crew that radar service was terminated, and a frequency change was approved.

During the approach after the crew received the airport's 1403 weather, the pilot commented, "There's eighty two." The VOR/DME RNAV (GPS-A) approach specifies that the minimum descent altitude for a circling approach is 8,200 feet, and the final approach course for the circling approach to the airport is 104 degrees. The IAP indicates that the final approach course for a circling approach is aligned with runway 10 (see attached IAP). About 19 seconds prior to the end of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) recording, the airplane's radio altimeter mechanical voice sounded with the words "Five hundred." One second thereafter a stick shaker-like sound was recorded, followed 6 seconds later with a pilot exclamation.

Three seconds prior to the end of the recording, the airplane's ground proximity warning system's mechanical voice sounded the words "sink rate, pull up." Three seconds later the recording ended.

Several witnesses located in the vicinity of the airport reported observing the airplane as it approached. All of the witnesses reported observing the airplane approach the airport from the north, and it was proceeding in a southerly direction with the landing gear extended and its lights illuminating. The airplane overflew the airport, whereupon it turned left and paralleled runway 10/28 while proceeding in a southeasterly direction. Witnesses observed that the airplane appeared to enter a close in left downwind leg for runway 28. The witnesses further observed the airplane turn onto the base and final approach legs for runway 28. None of the witnesses reported seeing anything abnormal with the airplane prior to impact other than its steep bank angle and low altitude.

One of the witnesses, who was located near the middle of the airport on the second floor of the terminal/airport administration building, made the following statement regarding his observations: "I...looked toward the approach end of RWY 28 and observed a white jet with tip tanks in an unusual attitude. The aircraft appeared to be about 300 feet agl [above ground level] in close to a 90-degree left bank and in the mist, trying to line up on runway 28. It appeared the aircraft had overshot [the runway's] centerline. As I continued to watch, it appeared the bank angle sharpened somewhat, the nose began to tuck and the aircraft slipped into the ground. On impact there was a fireball."

Another witness, who was also in the administration building, made the following statement regarding his observations: "I saw the aircraft in and out of the clouds in a close base for [runway] 28. I then saw the aircraft emerge from a cloud in a base to final turn for runway 28. The aircraft appeared to be approximately 300-400 feet above the ground. The left wing was down nearly 90 degrees. The aircraft appeared north of the [runway 28] centerline. The aircraft pitched nose down approximately 30-40 degrees and appeared to do a 1/2 cartwheel on the ground before exploding. "



The captain (pilot-in-command) held the following certificates and ratings: Airline Transport Pilot (ATP), airplane multiengine land, with commercial pilot privileges for airplane single engine land. He was type rated in the Boeing 737, HS-125, and Learjet.

He held a certified flight instructor certificate for airplane single engine land. The certificate expired in January 2006. Also, he held a ground instructor, instrument, certificate. A review of FAA accident/incident files for the preceding 5 years revealed no records relating to the captain.

The operator reported that the captain's total flight time was approximately 4,880 hours, of which 2,200 hours were flown in the accident model of airplane. During the preceding 90- and 30-day periods the pilot flew the accident model of airplane 138 and 40 hours, respectively. The pilot's last FAR 135 airman competency/proficiency check flight was satisfactorily accomplished on September 28, 2005, in the accident airplane.

First Officer.

The first officer held the following certificates and ratings: Commercial pilot, airplane multiengine land and instrument airplane. He had private pilot privileges, airplane single engine land.

On December 12, 2005, the first officer passed a check ride administrated by the FAA. He was issued a temporary airman certificate authorizing him to perform as a second-in-command in a Learjet. A review of FAA accident/incident files for the preceding 5 years revealed no records relating to the first officer.

The operator reported that the first officer's total flight time was approximately 1,650 hours, of which 56 hours were flown in the accident model of airplane. During the preceding 90- and 30-day periods the pilot flew the accident model of airplane 50 and 15 hours, respectively. The pilot's last FAR 135 check flight was satisfactorily accomplished on October 8, 2005, in a LR 35A level "C" simulator.


The airplane was manufactured in 1978, and the FAA had issued it a transport category, standard, airworthiness certificate. When the airplane received its last continuous airworthiness inspection on December 20, 2005, its reported total time was 9,244 hours. Two Garrett (Honeywell) TFE 731-2-2B engines were installed in the airplane, having a total time of approximately 9,059 and 9,102, hours respectively (left and right engines).

At the Safety Board investigator's request, the FAA reviewed the airplane's maintenance records. Following the review, the FAA reported that all applicable airworthiness directives had been complied with. No abnormalities were found.


As the airplane approached the Truckee-Tahoe Airport, the crew received updated weather information at least three times, as indicated by recordings on the CVR. About 1342, the crew received the following weather from the Truckee-Tahoe Airport AWOS broadcast. The time indicated by the AWOS was 1340 (2140 UTC). The broadcast weather was as follows: wind 220 degrees at 15 knots, peak gusts 36; visibility 3 miles; 1,800 feet scattered, ceiling 2,400 broken, 4,200 overcast; temperature 2 degrees Celsius; dew point 0 degrees Celsius; altimeter 30.02 inHg.

The last AWOS-reported weather received by the crew, as recorded on the CVR, occurred about 1403. At this time the broadcast weather was as follows: peak gusts 22 knots; visibility 2 1/2 miles; ceiling 1,500 broken, 2,400 overcast; temperature 1-degree Celsius; dew point -1 degree Celsius; altimeter 30.02 inHg; remarks visibility variable between 1/2 and 5 miles.

Three qualified airport personnel weather observers reported to the Safety Board investigator that, as the airplane overflew the airport, they noted the weather conditions. Composite information from these observers indicated that at 1406 the weather was as follows: wind 220 degrees at 20 knots; gusts to 30 knots; visibility 1 1/2 miles; variable 1 1/2 to 5; light rain and mist; scattered 1,200 feet, broken 1,500 feet, overcast 2,400 feet; temperature 1-degree Celsius; dew point -1 degree Celsius; altimeter 30.03 inHg.


According to FAA records of facility operations, all electronic aids to navigation pertinent to the airplane's route of flight approaching its Truckee destination were functional.


The FAA reported that all communications to and from the accident airplane had been routine.


Runways, Equipment, and Approach Procedures.

The uncontrolled Truckee-Tahoe Airport, elevation 5,900 feet msl, has two runways. Runway 10/28, is 7,000 feet long by 100 feet wide, and runway 19/01, is 4,650 feet long by 75 feet wide. The airport is equipped with an AWOS-3, which reports altimeter setting, wind, temperature, dew point, visibility, and cloud/ceiling data.

The FAA published two instrument approach procedures (IAPs) for the airport. These IAPs are named "VOR/DME RNAV or GPS-A" and "GPS RWY 19."

The published GPS-A weather minima for a Category C and D aircraft making a circling approach is an 8,200 feet mean sea level (msl) minimum descent altitude (MDA) and 3 miles visibility. No straight-in approach is published.

Airport Activity and Emergency Response.

Airport Management reported that the weather at the airport had been inclement for several hours preceding the accident, and there had been only a few arrivals and departures. Between 0909 and 1305, airport records indicate that two aircraft had landed, and two aircraft had departed. The last airport activity prior to the accident was at 1305.

Airport management staff observed the accident and initiated an emergency response within seconds following the mishap. Airport personnel called 911 and notified staff of the emergency using radios. Approximately 1 minute thereafter staff were on the airfield moving in the direction of the accident site. Airport staff also notified Reno Flight Service to initiate a Notice to Airmen closing the runway at 1408.


A B & D Instruments, 30-minute tape, cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was installed on the airplane. It was recovered from the accident site, and its data was read out by the Safety Board's Washington, D.C., Cockpit Voice Recorder Laboratory on January 4, 2006.

According to the CVR specialist, the recorder showed evidence of fire and soot on the exterior case. The case was dented so it was necessary to cut it away to access the interior of the recorder. The interior of the recorder and the tape memory module showed no evidence of heat or impact damage. The tape was extracted from the recorder following normal procedures.

The recording was 28:19 minutes long and consisted of four channels of poor to good quality audio information. One channel contained the cockpit area microphone audio. A high level of background noise was present, and the pilots' voices were recorded at a very low level. Using high level digital filtration, it was only possible to hear occasional words or sounds on this channel. Two other channels contained the respective pilots' voices, air traffic control audio, and cockpit warning. These channels recorded sounds of good quality. The fourth channel was not used on this recording.


Ground Swath.

The on scene examination of the accident site and airplane wreckage revealed evidence of left wing fragments in the ground swath at, and within a few yards of, the initial point of impact (IPI). The IPI was located on estimated 10-degree upsloping ground, about 2,065 feet east (072 degrees, magnetic) of runway 28's landing threshold. The approximate global positioning satellite (GPS) coordinates of the IPI are 39 degrees 18.790 minutes north latitude by 120 degrees 07.469 minutes west longitude. The estimated elevation is 5,860 feet msl. The IPI was approximately 65 feet north of runway 28's extended centerline.

The ground swath, which included multiple fragments of wreckage, was principally oriented on a magnetic bearing of 252 degrees. The IPI was denoted by the presence of fragments from the airplane's left wing tip. The ground swath was approximately 3 feet deep by 10 feet wide at its widest point. The majority of the wreckage components was found to each side of the swath, over a 65-foot-wide by 325-foot-long path.

The cockpit was found at the western end of the wreckage distribution area, adjacent to the east side of the Martis Dam (airport perimeter) Road, at an estimated elevation of 5,875-feet msl.

Fire burned native vegetation in, and adjacent to, the impacted area, and also burned portions of the fragmented airplane structure.

Wreckage Fragmentation.

All of the airplane's structural components, including the flight control surfaces, wings, nose, tail, and engines were located at the accident site. The cockpit was destroyed.

The left wing was found separated from the fuselage. The left tip tank was found separated from the left wing. The aft portion right tip tank remained attached to the right wing, which came to rest near the fuselage several yards from the western end of the wreckage distribution path. The fuselage, empennage, and right engine came to rest near the airport's perimeter road. Both flaps and ailerons separated from the wings.

The left main landing gear was found separated form from the wing and was located to the right of the wreckage distribution path. The nose gear remained attached to the nose section of the airplane, and the right main landing gear remained attached to the right wing.

The horizontal stabilizer was found separated from the empennage, and was separated from the vertical stabilizer at the hinge point. Both elevators were found attached to the horizontal stabilizer.

Control cable continuity could not be verified, with the exception of the cables in the aft fuselage, which were confirmed connected to the rudder.


Pilot (Captain).

The captain held a first-class aviation medical certificate that was issued on September 20, 2005. No limitations were listed.

Pilot (First Officer).

The first officer held a first-class aviation medical certificate that was issued on November 17, 2005. No limitations were listed.

Autopsies on both pilots were performed by the Placer County Coroner's Office, California. Results of toxicology tests performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute revealed no evidence of carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, or screened drugs for either pilot.


Engine Examination and Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC).

The engines were examined on scene at the direction of the Safety

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.