Fatal Learjet 35A Air Ambulance Plane Crash in San Diego, California
December 28, 2021
Two crew members and two passengers aboard a Learjet 35A airplane were killed while attempting to land at Gillespie Field airport in El Cajon, California on December 27, 2021. The airplane was owned by MedJet LLC, an air ambulance medical transport company located in El Cajon, San Diego County, California. Early reports indicate that the flight was operated by Aeromedevac Air Ambulance - also an El Cajon-based company.
Reportedly, as the plane approached the airport, the pilot requested a change from an instrument approach to Runway 17 to a visual approach to Runway 27R.
At 19:08 Gillespie Tower cleared the flight to land on runway 17. At 19:11 the flight contacted Gillespie Tower, canceling their IFR clearance and requesting to land on runway 27R. This was approved and the Tower controller cleared the flight for a left hand traffic pattern for runway 27R. The flight crew then requested the runway lights to be turned up, to which the controller replied that “they are at a 100% now.”
“Circle to Land” approaches are one of the most challenging flight maneuvers in aviation. If low visibility conditions exist due to a night landing or landing in inclement weather, circling to land will typically be an even more difficult maneuver.
The FAA publication, Instrument Procedures Handbook, includes chapter 4, which is dedicated to Approaches - and discusses some of the issues surrounding circling approaches and instrument approaches.
In the Media
According to a Times of San Diego report, no one on the ground in the neighborhood near the crash was injured, although one home and one car was damaged by crash debris.
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be handling the investigation.
*Update 1/11/22: NTSB releases Preliminary Accident Report
The NTSB document confirms earlier news reports that the airplane had been on an instrument approach before switching to a visual approach for Runway 27R and that after the pilot requested that the runway lights for runway 27R be increased, the controller informed him that the lights were already at 100 percent.
Potential Legal Hurdle - GARA
Because the aircraft was manufactured more than 18 years ago, the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 (GARA) will come into play with any litigation evolving from this tragedy. GARA is a tort reform measure that imposes an eighteen-year statute of repose for general aviation aircraft. The statute of repose does not bar actions where the defendant knowingly misrepresents or conceals required information that is material and relevant and causally related to the harm plaintiffs suffered. It also does not apply to new components or instructions promulgated after original manufacture within the eighteen-year period. For more information about the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, read the article, Recent Developments Relating to GARA, by Kreindler attorney Justin Green.
Kreindler Related Crash Cases
Kreindler is currently representing the families of two medical flight nurse crew members who perished in a twin-engine fixed-wing air ambulance crash in Elko, Nevada on November 18, 2016. In addition, Kreindler attorneys have handled other previous air ambulance and emergency medical services (EMS) aviation accident cases, including the fatal crash of a Cessna Citation II 550 business jet that went down into Lake Michigan shortly after take-off. The firm also represented family members following the fatal accident involving a Tri-State CareFlight helicopter that was en route to rescue an injured logger near Mancos, Colorado.
The firm is also representing the family of one of the passengers who was tragically killed as a result of the July 2021 crash of a Bombardier CL-600 Challenger airplane in Truckee, California. Our initial investigation suggests that a last-minute “circle to land” approach to the runway may have been a contributing factor to the crash.
About Kreindler & Kreindler
Kreindler is the preeminent aviation accident law firm in the world. Our attorneys have been appointed leading counsel in nearly every major commercial airline disaster case in the U.S. and abroad. Since 1950, we have fought diligently to achieve a record of success in resolving plane and helicopter crash cases on behalf of our clients. Kreindler has law offices in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Photo Credit: Learjet 35A plane, Tomás Del Coro