Santa Monica Jet Crash Remains a Mystery

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Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 1:16 PM
click to enlarge CESSNA.COM
  • cessna.com

If a tire popped or landing gear failed in last month's fatal crash of a private jet at Santa Monica Airport, preliminary findings sure don't show it.

See also: Fiery Crash at Santa Monica Airport.

An initial report from the National Transportation Safety Board today said the tires were in good condition, the plane was seen landing normally, and there was nothing on the runway that would have tripped up the aircraft:

... There was no airplane debris on the runway. The three landing gear tires were inflated and exhibited no unusual wear patterns. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control tower local controller reported that the pilot did not express over the radio any problems prior to or during the landing.

There were initial reports that the plane owned by real estate mogul Mark Benjamin might have veered off the runway as a result of a failed tire or landing gear. But so far that doesn't seem to be the case.

Benjamin, 63, his son Luke, 28, his companion Kyla Dupont, 53, and the son's girfriend, Lauren Winkler, 28, were killed when the Cessna Citation crashed into a hangar and erupted in flames Sept. 29.

See also: Lauren Winkler, UCLA Grad, ID'd as Santa Monica Jet Crash Victim.

Here's the NTSB's summary of what happened:

Witnesses reported observing the airplane make a normal approach and landing. The airplane traveled down the right side of the runway, eventually veered off the runway, impacted the 1,000-foot runway distance remaining sign, continued to travel in a right-hand turn, and impacted a hangar structural post with the right wing. The airplane came to rest inside the hangar and the damage to the hangar structure caused the roof to collapse onto the airplane. A post-accident fire quickly ensued.

Maybe Benjamin had a medical emergency? The final report might shed some light on what happened.

See also: Santa Monica Airport Is Dangerous, Rep. Waxman Says.

In the meantime, the crash has renewed calls by neighbors to ban jets or shut down the small airport altogether.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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