The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary report on the fatal crash of XA-USD, a Learjet 35 fixed-wing air ambulance operated by AirEvac International, on 19 November 2013.
The following text is taken from the report.
“On 19 November 2013, at 19:56 hrs eastern standard time, a Learjet 35, Mexican registration XA-USD, operated by Aero JL SA de CV, was destroyed when it collided with the Atlantic Ocean after take-off from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The commercial pilot and a physician onboard were lost and presumed fatally injured. The copilot and a flight nurse were fatally injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the positioning flight from FLL to Cozumel, Mexico.
The plane had just completed an air ambulance flight for AirEvac International from San Jose, Costa Rica to FLL, and was repositioning back to its base in Cozumel, Mexico.
Preliminary voice and radar information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed the plane had departed Runway 10 at approximately 19:50 hrs, climbed straight ahead to an altitude of 2,200 ft, at an approximate groundspeed of 200 kt, when the pilot requested radar vectors back to runway 10L at FLL due to an ‘engine failure’. The controller directed the pilot to maintain 4,000 ft and turn to a heading of 340 degrees. The pilot replied ‘not possible’ and requested a 180-degree turn back to the airport.
At 19:52:34 hrs, the pilot declared a ‘mayday’ and requested vectors back to FLL. Over the approximately three minutes that followed, the pilot requested vectors to the airport multiple times. While the pilot requested, received, and acknowledged additional radar vectors to the southwest from air traffic control to return to the airport, the plane continued its slow turn and descent to the north. During the approximately two minutes that transpired after the pilot declared his intention to return to FLL, the plane descended to 900 ft and slowed to140 kt as it flew northbound, parallel to the shoreline and away from FLL.
At 19:53:42 hrs, about 700 ft and 150 kt, the plane initiated a left turn towards shore. The plane continued its descending left turn until radar contact was lost at 100 ft and 150 kt on a southwesterly heading, at 19:55:42 hrs.
The pilot was issued a commercial pilot certificate by the government of Mexico, with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent medical certificate was issued 22 August 2013. According to the operator, the pilot had accrued 10,091 total hours of flight experience, of which 1,400 hours were in the 30-series Learjet.
The copilot was issued a commercial pilot certificate by the government of Mexico, with ratings for airplane single-engine, airplane multi-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent medical certificate was issued on 26 June 2013. According to the operator, the copilot had accrued 1,235 total hours of flight experience, of which 175 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.
According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1979. Its most recent continuous airworthiness inspection was completed 4 November 2013, at 6,842 aircraft hours.
At 19:53 hrs, the weather reported at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL), located six miles southwest of the accident site included few clouds at 2,500 ft and a scattered layer at 6,500 ft. The wind was calm and visibility was nine miles. The temperature was 23ºC, the dew point was 22ºC, and the altimeter setting was 29.93 inches of mercury.
Wreckage was recovered from the ocean surface and taken to the US Coast Guard Station Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Examination by the NTSB showed the wreckage contained exterior aircraft sheet metal skin, seat cushions, and luggage. The sheet metal skin showed no evidence of inflight or post-crash fire, and all fractures and tears were consistent with overload failure.”