Narrative:The aircraft, a Learjet 35A bound for Cozumel, Mexico, impacted the waters of the Atlantic Ocean about three miles northeast of Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (KFLL), Fort Lauderdale, Florida. All four aboard were killed.
The airplane had just completed an air ambulance flight for Air Evac International from San Jose, Costa Rica to Fort Lauderdale, and was repositioning back to its base in Cozumel, Mexico.
The airplane departed Fort Lauderdale Airport runway 10R about 19:50.
After the aircraft climbed straight ahead over the ocean to about 2,200 ft and 200 knots groundspeed, the copilot requested radar vectors back to the departure airport due to an "engine failure." The controller assigned an altitude and heading, and the copilot replied, "not possible," and requested a 180-degree turn back to the airport, which the controller acknowledged and approved. However, the airplane continued a gradual left turn to the north as it slowed and descended.
At 19:52:34 the crew radioed "Mayday, mayday, mayday". The Miami Departure controller instructed the crew to turn left, heading 260 and continued to give vectors for an approach to runway 28R.
During the next 3 minutes, the copilot requested, received, and acknowledged multiple instructions from the controller to turn left to the southwest to return to the airport. However, the airplane continued its slow left turn and descent to the north. The airplane slowed to 140 knots and descended to 900 ft as it flew northbound, parallel to the shoreline, and away from the airport. Eventually, the airplane tracked in the direction of the airport, but it continued to descend and impacted the ocean about 1 mile offshore, broke up and sank.
According to conversations recorded on the airplane's cockpit voice recorder, no checklists were called for, offered, or used by either flight crewmember during normal operations (before or during engine start, taxi, and takeoff) or following the announced in-flight emergency. After the "engine failure" was declared to the air traffic controller, the pilot asked the copilot for unspecified "help" because he did not "know what's going on," and he could not identify the emergency or direct the copilot in any way with regard to managing or responding to the emergency. At no time did the copilot identify or verify a specific emergency or malfunction, and he did not provide any guidance or assistance to the pilot.
Examination of the left engine's thrust reverser system components after salvage found that the upper blocker door was attached to the reverser and found in a partially deployed position.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane following an inflight deployment of the left engine thrust reverser. Contributing to the accident was the flight crew's failure to perform the appropriate emergency procedures, the copilot's lack of qualification and capability to act as a required flight crewmember for the flight, and the inflight deployment of the left engine thrust reverser for reasons that could not be determined through postaccident investigation."
Loss of control
» Cockpit Voice Recorder transcript
» Miami Herald
Empennage and tail section on Ocean floor
Wing, wing box structure, and main landing gear
Number 1 engine on Ocean floor
Number 1 engine with thrust reverser unlocked
Number 2 engine with thrust reverser stowed
Image of radar track
Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), L-3 Communications/Fairchild FA2100-1020
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not
display the exact flight path.
Distance from Fort Lauderdale International Airport, FL to Cozumel Airport as the crow flies is 921 km (576 miles).