Transcripts released by the FAA early last month reveal that the pilots of the Pinnacle Airlines CRJ200 that crashed in Jefferson City, Mo., on October 18 purposely climbed to 41,000 feet to “have a little fun” before the jet, its 50 passenger seats empty, lost power and began a rapid descent. “We don’t have any passengers on board so we decided to have a little fun and come on up here,” said one of the pilots. Neither the FAA nor the NTSB would identify which pilot, Capt. Jesse Rhodes or copilot Richard Cesarz, made the comment.
Although its certification allows for operations up to 41,000 feet, the Bombardier CRJ200 had apparently slowed to a dangerously low speed. “I don’t think he had enough gas up there he is so slow,” said one of the air traffic controllers on duty at the Kansas City ARTCC. Pinnacle Airlines has since restricted the ceiling for its CRJs to 37,000 feet.