Singer's ill-fated Learjet had 2005 accident: US records

The executive jet involved in a weekend crash in Mexico that killed Latin music star Jenni Rivera had a landing mishap in Texas seven years ago, according to US aviation records.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the Learjet 25 was landing at Amarillo airport on July 1, 2005, in good weather but in a stiff crosswind, when the pilot was "unable to maintain directional control."

"The airplane struck a runway distance marker, and exited the runway to the left during landing roll," it said on its website, adding that none of the four occupants were injured.

In the ensuing investigation, the NTSB said the probable cause of the accident was "the pilot's failure to maintain directional control during the landing roll. A contributing factor was the prevailing crosswind."

The unidentified captain, with 7,300 hours of flight experience, told investigators he felt an imbalance between the left and right wingtip fuel tanks, making it hard to keep the Learjet level on approach to the runway.

But maintenance personnel said they found no discrepancies in the fuel transfer system, according to the NTSB report.

The accident was the only one in the NTSB database involving the Learjet that bore the tail number N345MC, which was re-registered to Starwood Management of Las Vegas, Nevada, earlier this year.

"They got the airplane working again (after the accident), and apparently it had no other problem since that we know of," veteran aviation safety expert Bruce Landsberg told AFP when asked to comment on the NTSB report.

Landsberg, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Foundation in Frederick, Maryland, said US-registered executive jets are subject to frequent inspections, and typically carry black box recorders.

Revered as the "Diva de la Banda," Rivera, 43, was among seven people aboard the Learjet when it crashed Sunday shortly after taking off from the northern industrial city of Monterrey, where the singer had given a show.

She was flying to Toluca, near Mexico City, to participate as a coach in Mexico's version of the television singing contest "The Voice."

Landsberg noted the hour of the fatal crash -- about 3:15 am local time, according to Mexican authorities -- saying the pilots would have been at "a circadian low" if confronted by an in-flight mechanical issue at such a time of night.

He stressed, however, the need to wait for investigators to consider all possible factors.

"Everybody wants to know the what and the why," he said, "but you want to let the accident investigation run its course."

--

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