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Date:Saturday 2 February 2002
Type:Silhouette image of generic LJ35 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Learjet C-21A (Learjet 35A)
Operator:United States Air Force - USAF
Registration: 84-0097
MSN: 35-543
First flight: 1985
Engines: 2 Garrett TFE731-2-2B
Crew:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 0
Total:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Aircraft damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:Rapid City-Ellsworth AFB, SD (RCA) (   United States of America)
Phase: Initial climb (ICL)
Departure airport:Rapid City-Ellsworth AFB, SD (RCA/KRCA), United States of America
Destination airport:Rapid City-Ellsworth AFB, SD (RCA/KRCA), United States of America
The mishap aircraft, call sign Pacer 43, was conducting pattern work operations during an off-station training mission at Ellsworth AFB, SD (RCA). Shortly before impact, the mishap crew was conducting a simulated single-engine approach to runway 31 at Ellsworth AFB. Subsequent analysis showed that there was a significantly greater amount of fuel in the left wing and left wing tip tank than the right. The gross fuel imbalance resulted from an unmonitored transfer of fuel from the right wing and right wing tip tank to the left that was initiated by the crew approximately nine and one-half minutes before impact. As the aircraft approached the point when it would normally transition to a flare, it leveled off and began a climbing turn to the west, toward the tower. It did not touch down prior to the turn, but veered left immediately during the flare, and then rolled back to wings level momentarily as it climbed.
The heavier left wing, and application of power to the right engine for the go-around, caused the aircraft to roll back into a steeper left turn, stayed in a climbing left turn with the bank continuing to increase until il rolled through more than 90 degrees of bank. As the aircraft reached the highest point of the climb (approximately 450 feet), the bank angle was more than 90 degrees, and perhaps slightly inverted as the
nose dropped and the aircraft began to descend. The aircraft impacted the ground in a grassy field.

Probable Cause:

The accident investigation board president found clear and convincing evidence that the primary cause of the mishap was the crew's failure to follow flight manual procedures for fuel transfer. As a result, the mishap aircraft experienced a fuel imbalance significant enough to cause the aircraft to enter an unsafe roll to the left from which the pilot was not able to recover.

Loss of control

» US Department of Defense
» USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to Present / Joe Baugher


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This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Learjet 35

  • 738 built
  • 50th loss
  • 39th fatal accident
  • 22nd worst accident (at the time)
  • 31st worst accident (currently)
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