Report: Plane that went off Aspen runway ‘would not become airborne’

A photo of the Hawker 800XP that crashed off the end of the Aspen-Pitkin County airport runway last month provided in the NTSB’s preliminary report about the incident.
Courtesy image

The pilot of a departing private jet that crashed off the end of the Aspen-Pitkin County airport runway last month told federal investigators the plane “would not become airborne” before he aborted the takeoff.

That’s according to a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report, which also says the runway was clear Feb. 21, pre-flight checks on the Hawker 800XP jet were normal and the wind was at 16 knots gusting to 25 knots.

“At rotation speed, the captain applied back pressure on the yoke; however the airplane would not become airborne,” according to the report. “The captain reported, ‘the yoke did not have any air resistance or any pressure on it as we experience normally in Hawkers (the weight and pressure on the yoke felt the same as though the airplane was stationary on [the] ground).'”

“Rotation speed” is the flight computer’s calculation of the speed necessary to lift off, said Dan Bartholomew, Aspen-Pitkin County airport director. The yoke is the control column or wheel used to pilot an aircraft.

“After a few seconds and without any indication the airplane would take off, the captain aborted the takeoff,” according to the NTSB report. “The captain reduced the engines, deployed the thrust reversers and applied the brakes. The airplane subsequently departed the end of the runway into the snow. The captain secured the airplane and assisted in the evacuation of the passengers.”

A business jet sits at the end of the Aspen airport runway on Monday afternoon. No injuries were reported.
Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times

The four passengers and two pilots on board the plane, which was traveling from Aspen to Austin, Texas, about 11:30 a.m., were not injured. The plane, however, sustained significant damage and required a crane to be extracted from the snow bank.

Bartholomew said the preliminary report doesn’t necessarily indicate mechanical failure and that other factors, such as a wind gust, might have played a role in the incident.

“That report doesn’t get into the cause,” he said. “It’s just the facts at this point. It’s hard to say (what caused the crash). Anything’s open right now.”

The NTSB’s final report on the incident can take months to be released.

The incident closed the Aspen-Pitkin County airport for nearly nine hours on Presidents Day, a busy travel day.


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