The sad crash of a Citation V private jet is widely concluded by the media as a hypoxia event. That means loss of cabin pressure that resulted in loss of consciousness of the pilot.

First, loss of cabin pressure is a trained for event in all jets and includes the recognition of a pressurization warning, a quick donning oxygen mask readily available to the pilot and a rapid descent even though passengers will also have oxygen available.

For some reason, this pilot was rendered unconscious or unable to operate this aircraft at 34,000 feet even though he would have had a minute of useful consciousness in the event of loss of pressurization.

That just doesn’t make sense. It takes only a couple of seconds to put on the oxygen mask.

So long as the oxygen bottle was full and the mask functional this accident doesn’t happen due to hypoxia.

So, what else is a possible scenario? The pilot could have become incapacitated for reasons other than hypoxia in which event the autopilot would have flown the airplane along the flight planned route and then if nothing was done at or before the destination turned the aircraft back on its route if that’s how the autopilot is programmed until it ran out of fuel.

As the aircraft descended, the pilot would have regained consciousness quickly as the air became more dense. It usually takes at least 18,000 feet above sea level before consciousness is regained but descent while on autopilot even with no power is fairly benign.

What is unusual about this accident is the report that the final descent was 20,000 feet per minute. No intact airplane descends that fast in one piece which leads me to believe that something or someone overstressed the airplane during its descent especially with both engines dead from no fuel.

What could have occurred is both engines quit from fuel starvation, the autopilot tried to maintain level flight time and time again but could not and at some point, the autopilot disconnected, the airplane suffered an aerodynamic stall fell off on one wing and descended rapidly and the 20,000 feet per minute is an interpretation based upon initial descent rate. It is also possible as well that as the aircraft descended more and more rapidly, it broke apart which would account for the rapid descent as it was no longer intact. That would be similar to another Citation accident in Utah which due to an icing encounter, aerodynamically stalled, and broke apart at about 16,000 feet during the rapid descent in the stall.

Some new jets, like the HondaJet and the Cirrus Jet have a button. If the pilot is incapacitated, a passenger can push the button, the airplane announces its emergency, picks a suitable airport and lands by itself. This is the latest technology that does not exist in the Citation V or most other aircraft.

This is a sad day for the families of those who lost their lives. May their memories be a blessing.

Arthur Alan Wolk

June 6, 2023

Arthur Alan Wolk

January 22, 2023

Contact The Wolk Law Firm
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Air Traffic Control Communications With The Pilot