1996 New Hampshire Learjet crash
|Date||24 December 1996|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain|
|Site||Dorchester, New Hampshire
|Aircraft type||Learjet 35A|
|Operator||Aircraft Charter Group, Inc.|
|Flight origin||Bridgeport, Connecticut|
|Destination||Lebanon, New Hampshire|
The 1996 New Hampshire Learjet crash involved a Learjet 35A which disappeared on Christmas Eve 1996 near Dorchester, New Hampshire, in the United States. The crash created the longest missing aircraft search in the state's history, lasting almost three years. Media attention eventually resulted in Congressional legislation mandating improved emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) be installed in U.S.-registered business jets.
The aircraft involved, registration N388LS, was operated by the Aircraft Charter Group and flown by pilots Johan Schwartz and Patrick Hayes on a repositioning flight. They left Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut, at 09:19am and 25 minutes later were flying the approach into Lebanon, New Hampshire. After one attempt at the ILS approach, the crew reported that they couldn't get the localizer, when they were actually several miles off course. They presumed ground equipment failure, and the pilot told the tower that he was executing a missed approach. The aircraft's last radar contact was as it proceeded outbound, seven nautical miles (13 km) northeast of the VOR, at 4,800 ft (1,500 m). It was raining and foggy at the time.
Searches were mounted, unsuccessfully. The wreckage was found near Smarts Mountain almost three years later, on November 13, 1999, about 20 miles (32 km) from the airport. Debris was spread over a 150-yard (140 m) area in dense forest. The aircraft had descended into the ground 10.3 nautical miles (19.1 km) earlier than normal.
The cause of the accident was listed as:
|“||The captain's failure to maintain situational awareness, which resulted in the airplane being outside the confines of the instrument approach; and the crew's misinterpretation of a step-down fix passage, which resulted in an early descent into rising terrain. Factors included the captain's misreading of the instrument approach procedure, the crew's rushed and incomplete instrument approach briefing, their failure to use additional, available navigational aids, and their failure to account for the winds at altitude.||”|
The crashed aircraft had no ELT on board, as that class of aircraft when used for FAR Part 135 charter operations, was exempt from the Federal requirements for this type of beacon. As a result, Congress directed the FAA to require the installation of 406 MHz ELTs in all business jets (replacing the 121.5Mhz units installed in some).