The NTSB is investigating the January 5 fatal crash of a Learjet 35A in Prospect Heights, Ill. Owned and operated as a cargo hauler by Waterford, Mich.-based Royal Air Freight, N720RA was destroyed when it crashed into a forest preserve approximately two miles short of Chicago Executive (formerly Palwaukee) Airport (PWK), killing pilot Stephen Ellis and copilot Ryan Daenzer. The twinjet came down in the Des Plaines River, which runs through the preserve, at around 1:30 p.m., at the end of a short flight from Pontiac-Oakland County Airport.
According to investigators, the crew was flying a circling approach to Runway 34 when the accident happened. During the right turn to final, witnesses saw the airplane enter a 90-degree bank to the right, roll inverted and enter a nose-down descent. The Learjet was operating on an IFR flight plan for the Part 91 positioning flight. Wind was reported as 330 degrees and nine knots. Weather was reported as VMC, with 10 miles visibility and a broken cloud layer at 5,500 feet. Its cabin empty at the time of the crash, the Learjet was landing at Chicago Executive to pick up a load destined for Atlanta.
According to airport authorities, no emergency transmissions were received from the aircraft before the accident. The aircraft wreckage was removed from the river three days after the crash and transported to a secure facility for further examination. The CVR was recovered from the river bottom and sent to the NTSB vehicle recorders laboratory for evaluation.