SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — No problems were reported before a private jet crashed into a hangar and burst into flames while landing at a Southern California airport, a federal investigator said Monday.
The pilot of the Cessna 525A did not report any trouble with the aircraft during its flight from Idaho to Santa Monica on Sunday, Van McKenny, lead investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference.
Mark Benjamin, CEO of Morley Construction, and his son, Luke Benjamin, were believed to be aboard the aircraft, Vice President Charles Muttillo told The Associated Press. Luke Benjamin was a senior project manager at the Santa Monica-based company.
It was not known if anyone else was aboard.
It appeared nobody on the ground was hurt but the aircraft and hangar had yet to be examined because the structure collapsed.
Investigators were calling in two cranes to lift the wrecked building off the plane before they tried to retrieve remains and the cockpit voice recorder, McKenny said.
The twin-engine jet took off from Hailey, Idaho, and touched down at Santa Monica Municipal Airport at about 6:20 p.m., then veered off the runway and hit the hangar and caught fire.
“It just looks like he veered off the right side of the runway and then as he continued down, the turn got sharper and sharper,” McKenny said.
The hangar collapsed, its steel trusses crossing over the plane and the sheet metal wrapping around it, McKenny said.
Two other hangars received minor damage.
The plane was designed to hold eight passengers and two crew members.
“This was an unsurvivable crash,” Santa Monica Fire Department Capt. John Nevandro said Sunday night at a media briefing.
After hearing a loud boom, several neighbors ran toward the airport and saw the fire.
“It was very, very terrifying, it was sad to see just so much smoke, and the building collapse and the loud boom, you just put it all together and it’s scary,” witness Alyssa Lang told KABC-TV.
Witness Charles Thomson told the TV station the plane appeared to make a “perfectly normal landing” before veering off course.
The jet was registered to a Malibu, Calif., address and its corporate owner, Creative Real Estate Exchange, is based in Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta, according to FAA public records. The plane had no record of accidents or incidents, the FAA said.
According to the website flightaware.com, the plane made 12 flights in September, mostly within Idaho and between Idaho and Southern California.
Santa Monica Airport’s single runway sits amid residential neighborhoods of the city of more than 90,000. Its safety has been controversial for years, particularly over concerns that certain types of jets with fast landing speed could run off the runway and into homes.