2008 Mexico City Learjet crash
Cordoned-off crash site with burned buildings in background, with Mexican Police guarding the area
|Date||November 4, 2008|
|Summary||Wake turbulence due to pilot error|
|Site||Las Lomas, Mexico City
|Aircraft type||Learjet 45|
|Operator||Secretaría de Gobernación|
|Flight origin||Ponciano Arriaga International Airport, San Luis Potosí, S.L.P.|
|Destination||Mexico City International Airport|
|Fatalities||16 (9 in the aircraft and 7 on the ground) |
|Injuries||40 bystanders seriously injured
1,200 residents evacuated
30 cars destroyed
An official Mexican Interior Ministry aircraft crashed in central Mexico City at around 18:45 local time on November 4, 2008. Mexican Secretary of the Interior Juan Camilo Mouriño, who was aboard the plane, was killed in the crash, along with the other eight people on board and seven people on the ground.
The plane crashed in rush-hour traffic close to the intersection of Paseo de la Reforma and the Anillo Periférico, in the Las Lomas residential and business district. It entered wake turbulence from following a Boeing 767 too closely and plummeted to the ground below. Although the plane did recover, it did not have sufficient altitude and crashed into a building, exploding on impact.
The Interior Secretariat-owned Learjet 45 (registration XC-VMC) left Ponciano Arriaga International Airport in San Luis Potosí, S.L.P., and was 12 km (7.5 mi) short of landing at Mexico City International Airport when it crashed, amidst rush-hour traffic, in the heart of the financial district at approximately 18:45, causing an explosion that "reached higher than the buildings." According to then Secretary of Communications and Transport Luis Téllez, there were no survivors. Téllez also stated that the crash appeared to be an accident.
Also on the plane were:
- José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, former assistant attorney general and current head of the federal technical secretariat for implementing the recent constitutional reforms on criminal justice and public security.
- Miguel Monterrubio, director general of social communications with the Interior Secretariat.
- Arcadio Echeverría, coordinator of special events, office of the Interior Secretary.
- Norma Díaz, director in the communications department of the Interior Secretariat.
- Martín Olíva, pilot.
- Álvaro Sánchez, co-pilot.
- Gisel Carrillo, stewardess.
President Felipe Calderón addressed the nation live on national television. He spoke of Mouriño as "one of his closest friends and collaborators" and conveyed his condolences to the family. He stated that Mouriño was a man "who always fought to make Mexico a better country" and he guaranteed the nation that there would be an investigation on the causes behind the plane crash. Calderón encouraged Mexican men and women to continue fighting for a better country, "no matter how difficult or painful any rising event may be".
Marcelo Ebrard, Head of Government of the Federal District, also conveyed his condolences to the family of the Secretary of Interior and assured that Mexico City's government would issue a statement to the nation regarding the issue. Ebrard later said that the Mexico City government would give financial aid to all of the injured receiving medical care, irrespective of whether they had been admitted to private or public hospitals, and he stated that the local authorities had handed over all recordings taken by surveillance video cameras to the federal attorney general (PGR), along with all witness accounts that local police were able to gather.
Several other political figures have made statements regarding the crash, including various senators from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Germán Martínez, leader of the ruling National Action Party (PAN).
A group of senators – from different political parties – have asked the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) to investigate the accident so that all doubts and inquiries on the event may be cleared.
Results of investigation
The black boxes were sent to the United States for analysis. Information gathered from 38 minutes of cabin conversations, along with video footage from a security camera on top of the Omega Office Building, provided evidence for an official statement by the Mexican Government that the crash was the result of pilot error. The Learjet was ruled to have been flying too close to a Boeing 767-300ER operated by Mexicana, and therefore suffered violent wake turbulence caused by the larger jet. The minimum allowable distance for a lighter plane to follow behind a heavier plane is 5 nautical miles (9.3 km); the Learjet was only 4.1 nautical miles (7.6 km) behind the Mexicana plane.
Investigations into the accident have discovered several issues with the Mexican government's use of private contractors as pilots of government aircraft, especially important in cases such as this, when the passengers are high-level officials. Aviación Ejecutiva SA de CV is a company based in Toluca that currently holds the contract with the Mexican Federal government to provide services of maintenance and pilots for the federal airline fleet.
Benito Juárez Airport restricts light general aviation, which typically flies from Toluca International Airport. Only some government areas handle small and medium planes from facilities in Mexico City's Benito Juárez International Airport.
A video of the air traffic control radar and voice record was posted on YouTube since the crash of China Southern Airlines Flight 3456. The cause was similar to that kind of crash, officials say.
Several key elements of the accident have emerged during the investigation:
- The flight crew appear to have had little experience in operation of the Learjet 45, and an investigation concluded that the flight crew received fraudulent type certifications, they did not receive training and certification forms were missing or unsigned by their flight school.
- The descent profile showed that the plane approached the airport with an inconsistent descent angle. The plane descended rapidly and then leveling off as they approach the airport in a "stepped approach". It also flew faster than the speed given from the air traffic controller which brought the plane closer to the Mexicana 767-300.
- Conversation among the flight crew indicates that they had little familiarity with the operation of the plane; they failed on several occasions to enter the proper information into the cockpit instruments, did not follow a proper flight plan, and had navigational difficulties, missing their original arrival to San Luis Potosí by over 250 nautical miles (460 km). Further it was stated that their in-flight conversations were more of the nature of people driving a car, not of trained pilots following a proper flight plan.
- The flight crew waited over a minute to follow the order from air traffic control to reduce their velocity. The Learjet had been traveling at 262 knots (485 km/h), while the Mexicana 767-300 was flying at 185 knots (343 km/h), which caused the Learjet to get too close to the 767-300. The accident happened during peak hours at the airport with heavy air traffic; this has brought criticism of the handling and scheduling of risky flight plans for top government officials.
- The accident happened just at the point where aircraft entering Mexico City traveling on a 170° course (south-southeast) make a sharp left turn to align with the runways of Benito Juárez International Airport, at 53° (northeast). When the Learjet reached the turning point, too close behind the Mexicana 767-300, it encountered violent wake turbulence, causing the plane to invert into a nose-down attitude. At this point, the plane would have been flying at 9,000 feet (2,700 m) MSL, which is about 1,700 feet (520 m) over the ground.
- The weather at the time of the accident was calm, which sustained the wake turbulence.
- The flight crew was unable to regain control due to airspeed, inverted nose-down position, and insufficient altitude. The flight crew did manage to reduce the angle of descent from 45° to 40° before hitting the ground at over 300 miles per hour (480 km/h).
The accident and subsequent investigation were featured in Season 14 - Episode 8 of documentary series Mayday (also known as Air Crash Investigation) titled "Inner City Carnage" in the United Kingdom and Australia, and “Accident or Assassination” in the United States and Canada.
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- Mayday, Season 14, Episode 8: "Inner City Carnage". 25 July 2015.
- Secretariat of Communications and Transportation: "Informe accidente Learjet 45 XC-VMC, 4 de noviembre de 2008." (in Spanish)
- Official message from President Calderón
- Muere Mouriño en accidente aéreo Special coverage section from El Universal
- Official reports from the Mexican Ministry of Communications and Transportation regarding the accident
- Diálogo de los pilotos del Lear Jet 45 (Spanish)
- Government responsible to validate pilots of learjet.
- Air turbulence likely caused government crash.
- It is confirmed by authorities that SG had responsibility for control.
- Political parties leaders say that the country has been put at risk by improper security measures taken for protection of top officials who died in plane crash.
- ATC audio and radar video
- CVR audio