A Lear 35A ambulance air flight crashed in the dark and in very marginal VFR conditions at Gillespie Field San Diego, Ca. when the crew attempted a circle to land approach. Control was lost at a base to final turn for runway 27.

The aircraft performed the GPS instrument approach to the only runway into the wind with an instrument approach, Runway 17, but then after being cleared to land, elected to land VFR (Visual Flight Rules) on Runway 27, a much longer runway at the airport but with no instrument approach.

There is also a GPS approach to Runway 9L but both approaches terminate at about 1000 feet AGL.

That resulted in the crew cancelling the IFR clearance and making the circling approach VFR as you must be VFR to legally make such an approach. The approach is supposed to be made at or close to minimums for the IFR approach just completed and within a mile of the runway.

It is a very difficult and demanding maneuver under ideal conditions. At night and in bad weather it is just plain risky. Airlines stopped doing them for that reason.

It is understandable for the crew to request Runway 27 because it is much longer and Runway 17, especially when wet is marginal for a Learjet.

Further investigation will be required and a determination made if any mechanical issue intervened to make the approach unsuccessful.

The FAA requires demonstration of a circling approach during the annual 61.58 ride all jet pilots must pass. But every time I do that maneuver for the check ride, I often wonder why anyone would do such a maneuver in real life let alone at night and in not ideal weather.

A medivac flight is a special animal and pilots often are called upon to do what others may neither have to do or want to do but in this instance perhaps another of the many airports available would have been a better choice. As soon as a jet is taken off the stabilized approach, as a circling approach is not, the risk factors go up exponentially.

Their intentions were the best but sadly the outcome was tragic. May their lives be a blessing.



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