HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On January 3, 2009, at 1659 mountain standard time (MST) a Learjet 45XR, N279AJ, sustained substantial damage during an off-runway landing at Telluride Regional Airport (KTEX), Telluride, Colorado. The airplane was owned by LJ279, LLC, Missoula, Montana, and operated by Aero Jet Services, Scottsdale, Arizona. The airline transport pilot in the left seat was not injured and the airline transport pilot in the right sear received minor injuries. Intermittent visual meteorological conditions were present at the time of the accident and an instrument rules flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 positioning flight. The cross-country flight originated at the Scottsdale Airport (KSDL), Scottsdale, Arizona, at 1503.
In a statement provided by the Pilot-In-Command (PIC), who was seated in the right seat, upon arrival at KTEX the weather was reported to be below minimums; the crew elected to hold over the CONES VOR and wait to see if weather conditions would improve. The crew was given instructions, by air traffic control, to hold as published and to expect further clearance (EFC) at 1630. When the weather improved to a visibility of 4 miles and a ceiling of 2,300 feet, the PIC requested a descent and approach to KTEX. The crew was unable to complete the first landing attempt and called for a missed approach back to the VOR. The pilot then requested a second attempt to land stating that "if we did not land, we would like to be sequenced to into KMTJ" (Montrose Regional Airport Montrose, Colorado), their alternate airport.
On the second approach, both crew members stated that they had acquired the runway environment; however, they were still too high for a visual approach. The crew elected to do a 360-degree, right, descending turn, in order to be in a better position for landing. On completion of the turn, they again affirmed the runway environment and alignment with the extended centerline of the runway. The airplane touched down and after full thrust reversers were deployed, the nose gear collapsed. The airplane began to slide in snow and came to a stop in an upright position.
In a statement provided by the pilot flying, at 4 nautical miles both pilots had the runway in sight. They were not in a position to make a normal descent to the runway so the PIC suggested a 360-degree turn. The pilot added that at the completion of the turn, she was aligned with the extended centerline. Additionally, the precision approach path indicator (PAPI) was to the left and the right side runway edge identifier lights were to the right of the intended flight path. During the round out, the pilot shifted her view to the end of the runway. Between the round-out to touchdown, the PIC was telling the pilot to get it down on the runway but at the same time she was correcting for an unexpected gust of wind from the left. She applied a correction to maintain runway centerline. As the main landing gear contacted the ground, the pilot felt that the landing was normal. When the nose gear entered the snow the pilot felt the airplane "roll." No unusual airplane and engine performance was mentioned in the pilot's report.
An on-scene investigation was conducted by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector. The initial examination of the area indicated that the airplane had touched down about 20-feet to the right, and off, the runway. Additionally, the airplane's wings were torn from the fuselage. The tail section had separated just aft of the engines. No pre-impact anomalies with the airframe and engines were detected during the investigation.
Both pilots held Airline Transport Pilot certificates with type ratings in the Learjet 45. The pilot-in-command, who was seated in the right seat, was the pilot not flying (PNF). The second-in-command, who was seated in the left seat, was the pilot flying (PF).
The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was sent to Washington, DC, for download. The automated weather observations for KTEX were recorded on the AWOS. Below are three AWOS reports during the last 30 minutes of recording.
Observation 2330 Zulu (1630 local) was broadcasted prior to the crew beginning the first attempted approach. The observation reported winds from 260 at 4 knots, visibility 4 miles with light snow, scattered clouds at 300 feet, and an overcast ceiling at 1,700 feet.
Prior to going missed approach on the first landing attempt, observation 2338 Zulu (1638) reporting winds from 250 at 5 knots, visibility 2.5 miles with light snow, scattered clouds at 400 feet, a broken ceiling at 1,300 feet, and an overcast ceiling at 1,800 feet.
While conducting the second approach and prior to landing at KTEX, a partial AWOS excerpt reported a visibility of 4 miles with light snow, scattered clouds at 200 feet, a broken ceiling at 1,500 feet, and an overcast ceiling at 2,100 feet.
Telluride Airport is a non-towered airport located at an elevation of 9,072 feet mean sea level. Runway 9/27 is a grooved, asphalt runway that is 6,870 feet long and 100 feet wide.
According to an excerpt from the CVR, the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) reported to the pilots that Telluride had "an inch and half of snow or so on the runway. We have not plowed it, we were waiting until tomorrow. We're scattered at 300, overcast at 1,700 and heavy snow."
A review of the Localizer/DME approach chart to runway 9 revealed that the approach is valid for category A and B aircraft; aircraft with reference landing speeds (Vref) lower than 121 knots. The circling and straight-in minimum descent altitudes are both 11,100 feet mean sea level. The weather required for both the circling and straight-in approaches were listed as 2,100 feet ceiling and 2 miles visibility.
A review of the manufacturer's recommended operating procedures manual revealed that the Lear 45 is normally a category C aircraft for approaches.
Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) information
The last thirty minutes of the flight was transcribed and provided in the public docket. Approximately 2 minutes from touchdown, the PNF states that he had the runway in sight. He asks the PF if she would like to try to circle the airplane down to land. The PF starts by saying "I don't..." but is cut off by the PNF saying "circle this way." The PF says "uuhhh...," followed by the PNF replying, "try it." Forty-four seconds prior to touchdown the PNF asks, "...see the lead-in light, ah, the blinker?" The PF responds "No, I don't see anything yet." The PNF states "There's the runway." The PF replies, "Oh