Pilot: Wind shear caused Aspen accident
June 12, 2012
ASPEN – A crew was expected Monday to begin dismantling a Learjet that veered off the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport runway last week in an accident the pilot blamed on wind shear that caused one wingtip to hit the pavement as the aircraft was landing.
The damaged jet has been sitting outside the airport operations center, located opposite the runway from the terminal building, since it was placed there after Thursday’s mishap. The wings will be removed and other work will be done to accommodate transport of the aircraft on a flatbed truck, said Jim Elwood, aviation director at the airport.
The cause of the accident is the subject of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation, but the airport’s report on the incident includes a statement from Todd Chilton, pilot in command, who said a wind shear flung the jet down as it was coming in to land, causing the left wingtip to hit the pavement. “This caused me to veer off the runway into the east side safety areas. In the process of trying to correct it, the right main gear broke off and we eventually came to rest in the west side safety area,” Chilton said in the report.
The aircraft had about 185 gallons of fuel on board, the pilot indicated. Leaking fuel prompted an airport emergency crew to spray fire-suppressing foam at the accident site.
No one was hurt in the accident; the jet was carrying two pilots, six passengers and two dogs. The incident forced the closure of the airport for more than four hours, but federal officials were on the scene quickly, according to the airport report.
The runway was closed to operations at about 12:30 p.m. and NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration officials allowed cleanup of debris and repairs to airfield lighting to begin at 1:30 p.m. The airport was cleared to start moving the wreckage at 2:30 p.m.
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The aircraft couldn’t be moved without NTSB approval, Elwood said.
“Otherwise, the airplane has to sit wherever its stopping point was,” he said.
Although the jet was off of the runway, it was too close to allow operations to resume until it was moved, according to Elwood. The jet was chained to a trackhoe that was already on site at the airport and lifted onto a truck to move it out of the way, he said.
The accident caused about $5,000 in damage to airport property, according to the report. Seven airfield lights were broken, as was a sign that advises pilots and the concrete pad it sat on. Two other lights, owned the FAA, were also broken; repair was estimated at $2,000.
The aircraft suffered damage to both wings, lost a right flap and its right main gear. It also had a deep scratch on the left side of its fuselage, the report said.
Following the accident, the FAA checked the alignment of navigational lights known as the Precision Approach Path Indicator, or PAPI. Elwood said he hasn’t heard from the FAA regarding the results of that check.
The Learjet is owned by Performance Aircraft Leasing of Buffalo Grove, Ill., Elwood said. An insurance adjuster representing the owner inspected the aircraft last week, he said.