Final Report: Learjet Flew Into Thunderstorm

 - October 2, 2006, 3:00 PM

Learjet 55, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., July 19, 2004–The NTSB blamed the accident on the flight crew’s decision to continue the approach into a known area of potentially severe weather (the thunderstorm), which resulted in the flight encountering a 30-knot crosswind, heavy rain, low-level wind shear and hydroplaning on an ungrooved contaminated runway. The pilots were not injured.

While waiting for takeoff from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) for a short VFR positioning flight to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), the Hop-a-Jet Learjet flight crew heard the controller report to a Delta flight on final for Runway 27R that the wind was 250 degrees at 19 knots, gusting to 50 knots.

The 7,595-hour Learjet captain asked the first officer, “Can you see the end of the weather? If we make a hard right turn, can we stay clear of it?” The first officer responded, “I believe so.” Then the controller reported, “Wind shear alert. The centerfield wind 230 at 22. Runway 27R departure 25-knot loss one mile departure.” The captain said, “Sweet.”

He then asked, “Tower, any chance of 55 getting out of here?” The controller reported the wind as 230 at 17 and cleared the Learjet for takeoff. The captain responded, “Cleared to go, right turn out.” The controller told a Southwest flight waiting for takeoff, “The uh, weather is due west moving rapidly to the north. It looks like a few minutes, and you’ll all be in the clear straight out.” Airborne, the Learjet captain said, “Oh [expletive]. Think this was a bad idea.” The first officer responded, “No airport in sight,” followed by the sound of precipitation hitting the windshield.

The Learjet crew contacted FXE Tower, which reported, “Wind 200, variable 250 at 15. Heavy cell of weather to the west moving eastbound. Low-level wind shear possible.” The tower then transmitted, “Low-level wind shear advisories are in effect. Use caution. Wind 240 at 10.” When the Learjet reported over the shoreline inbound, the tower repeated wind shear warnings, gusts up to 25 and standing water on runways.

The weather hit FXE just as, or possibly seconds before, the Learjet touched down. The crew applied brakes and thrust reversers (TRs) immediately, but the brakes were completely ineffective. The crew decided to attempt a go-around but was unable to attain liftoff speed and ran off the runway, destroying the aircraft. The captain stated, “The thrust reversers didn’t stow,” then “I went around and the [expletive] TRs stayed.”

The satellite infrared image depicted a rapidly developing cumulonimbus cloud between and over FLL and FXE, with tops of 22,000 feet growing to 42,000 feet.

According to the NTSB, the first officer was employed by Hop-a-Jet in a managerial position and had 412 hours, 10 of them in the Learjet.