While the National Transportation Safety Board continues to work to pull the crashed plane from under a hangar at Santa Monica Airport, an aviation safety expert told Patch that mechanical problems with Cessna Citations are rare.
Bruce Landsberg, president of the AOPA Foundation and the Air Safety Institute spoke with Patch by telephone from Maryland. He said, “While I don’t know the age of [the plane that crashed in Santa Monica], the first [Cessna Citations] are fairly new, were built in 1999 and we don’t typically see a lot of problems with this type of plane.”
Landsberg said he believed that the NTSB and the FAA will thoroughly investigate the accident “and the chances are good they’ll be able to identify a mechanical fault.”
However, he added, at this stage it is all speculation and there are a myriad of possibilities from a blown tire to a brake locking up or even an incapacitated pilot that could have caused the plane to crash.
“Just by observation it looks like the plane exited the right side of the runway fairly far down and collided with the hangar,” he said.
He added where the plane exited on the runway is significant. “This type of plane is approved for single pilot operation and it will typically be able to land according to factory specifications in about 2,600 feet of runway.”
The Santa Monica Airport runway, he said, is 4,973 feet long - almost double the space the pilot would have needed in order to land safely. He said he believed whatever happened, happened either just at the point of landing or during the landing roll. In rare instances, he said, if there were strong crosswinds on Sunday night that might have been a factor in the crash.
Speaking to the NTSB’s announcement that the pilot gave no indication either during the flight or coming in to land that there were problems, Landsberg said had there been a problem with the landing gear there would have been an indication in the cockpit that the wheels weren’t down. “There are three green lights that come on in these plans and there’s a backup gear extension procedure to get the wheels down. A pilot would have time to radio that there was a problem.”
However, he added there is a maxim that pilots are taught to follow: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. “If there was no prior indication that there was a problem, the pilot would have been following [those first two maxims] when he first sensed trouble and if that occurred on or just before landing, communicating that there was a problem would have been his last priority,” Landsberg said.
As to the fact that nobody survived the crash, Landsberg noted it will be some time before it’s known how fast the plan was traveling before it landed and what the force of the impact on the hangars were.