2008 Mexico City Learjet crash
On 4 November 2008 an official Mexican Secretariat of the Interior aircraft crashed in central Mexico City at around 18:45 local time. There were sixteen fatalities—all nine people on board and seven people on the ground died. The plane was carrying the Mexican Secretary of the Interior Juan Camilo Mouriño.
Cordoned-off crash site with burned buildings in background guarded by Mexican Police
|Date||4 November 2008|
|Summary||Wake turbulence due to pilot error|
|Site||Las Lomas, Mexico City |
|Aircraft type||Learjet 45|
|Operator||Secretariat of the Interior|
|Flight origin||Ponciano Arriaga International Airport, SLP|
|Destination||Mexico City International Airport|
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. During its approach to Mexico City International Airport, the plane followed a Boeing 767 too closely and encountered wake turbulence which caused it to invert into a nose-down position. The pilots were able to reduce the angle of descent but due to excessive speed and insufficient altitude were unable to regain control of the aircraft. The plane crashed into a building, exploding on impact.
The Secretariat of the Interior-owned Learjet 45 (registration XC-VMC) left Ponciano Arriaga International Airport in San Luis Potosí and was 12 km (7.5 mi) short of landing at Mexico City International Airport when it crashed. The crash occurred at 18:45 in the middle of rush-hour traffic of the financial district causing an explosion whose flames "reached higher than the buildings". According to Secretary of Communications and Transport Luis Téllez, there were no survivors. Téllez also stated that the crash appeared to be an accident.
Aboard the plane were six employees of the Secretariat of the Interior and three crew:
- José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, former assistant attorney general and 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
- Arcadio Echeverría, coordinator of special events
- Norma Díaz, director in the communications department
- Martín Olíva, pilot
- Álvaro Sánchez, co-pilot
- Gisel Carrillo, flight attendant
After the crash, 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 into 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 event may be.
Marcelo Ebrard, Head of Government of the Federal District, also conveyed his condolences to Mouriño's family 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. He also said that the local authorities had handed over all recordings taken by surveillance video cameras to the federal attorney general, along with all witness accounts that local police gathered.
Several other political figures made statements regarding the crash, including various senators from the Institutional Revolutionary Party and Germán Martínez, leader of the ruling National Action Party. A group of senators from different political parties asked the Attorney General of Mexico to investigate the accident.
Results of investigationEdit
The jet's 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 as a result 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 discovered several issues with the Mexican government's use of private contractors as pilots of government aircraft.
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 had little experience in operation of the Learjet 45 and an investigation concluded that the flight crew received fraudulent 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 leveled off in a stepped approach to the airport. The plane did not slow down to the required speed given by 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, 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 speed. The Learjet had been traveling at 262 knots (485 km/h), while the Mexicana 767-300 was flying at 185 knots (343 km/h); this caused the Learjet to get too close to the 767-300.
- The accident happened during peak hours at the airport with heavy air traffic, which called into question the handling and scheduling of 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) mean sea level, 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. The episode was 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.