Flashback: Pressurization failure suspect in fatal Learjet 35 accident

 - October 4, 2022, 8:49 AM
AIN November, 1999 p.1

With AIN Media Group's Aviation International News and its predecessor Aviation Convention News celebrating the company's 50th year of continuous publication this year, AIN’s editorial staff is going back through the archives each month to bring readers some interesting events that were covered over the past half-century.

REWIND: (AIN November, 1999 p.1) Once again, the death of a high-profile personality in the crash of a private aircraft has focused the public’s concern and speculation about the safety of “small planes.” It happened to the small GA airplane industry when JFK Jr crashed in his Piper Saratoga earlier this year. Now it’s happening to the business aviation community as a result of last month’s crash of a Learjet 35 in which pro golfer Payne Stewart and the five other people on board were killed.

FASTFORWARD: Air traffic controllers lost communication with the jet about 15 minutes after it took off from Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 25, 1999 on a planned flight to Dallas. The NTSB report concluded that it suffered a loss of pressurization for “undetermined reasons,” rendering all aboard unconscious as the Learjet climbed to cruising altitude. The jet flew on autopilot for about four hours until it ran out of fuel and crashed in a field in South Dakota. The NTSB report showed that the airplane had undergone maintenance related to cabin pressure several times in the months leading to the accident, but the Safety Board failed to determine whether a common problem led to the need for the parts replacements and repairs.