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"Aspen Jet Crash Blamed on Pilot"

Tuesday, June 11, 2002 

Aspen Jet Crash Blamed on Pilot

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pilot of a private jet that crashed as it tried
to land in Aspen, Colo., came in too low and could not see the runway,
the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday. 

The board blamed the March 29, 2001, accident on the flight crew's
failure to follow normal procedures. 

Making the job harder was the fact that the sun was setting and there
was light snow, reducing visibility. 

Aviation Safety Director John Clark said the pilot was allowed to fly
below the minimum 10,200 feet when trying to land but only if he could
see the airport runway. 

``It's clear to us he didn't have it in sight the whole time, if he saw
it at all,'' Clark said. 

The pilot is supposed to abort the landing if he loses sight of the
runway, Clark said, but the board said he was under pressure from the
person who chartered the plane to land at Aspen rather than divert to
another airport. 

The Gulfstream III crash killed the three-member crew and 15 passengers
flying from Los Angeles to Aspen for a ski weekend to celebrate the
birthday of one member of the group. 

The approach to the airport in the Colorado resort community requires
planes to sharply descend to a single runway surrounded by mountain. The
approach to the Aspen airport requires a steep descent to a single
runway surrounded by mountains. 

Three planes trying to land before the Gulfstream had to abort their
attempts, and only one managed to touch down at the airport. 

Two days before the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration had
restricted certain nighttime landings that required the pilot to use
instruments to help locate the runway. But the notice never reached the
Aspen airport, and air traffic controllers gave pilot Robert Frisbie
permission for an instrument landing in light snow. 

In addition, while controllers in California told Frisbie of the FAA
restrictions before he took off, safety board officials said the warning
was not clear and may not have been understood by the pilot. 

After the crash, the FAA issued a second notice, prohibiting all
nighttime instrument landings. 

The safety board said the unclear wording of the notice and the failure
to tell Aspen controllers of the restrictions contributed to the crash.
FAA spokesman Les Dorr said the agency had changed its procedures. 

On the Net: 

NTSB: http://www.ntsb.gov 

Aspen Airport: http://www.aspenairport.com


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