Both Pilots Stated They Believed The Runway That They Saw Was Runway 36

Location: Jeffersonville, IN Accident Number: CEN21LA136
Date & Time: February 18, 2021, 19:05 Local Registration: N559RA
Aircraft: GATES LEARJET CORP 55C Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Positioning

On February 18, 2021, about 1905 central standard time (CST), a Learjet 55, N559RA, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Jeffersonville, Indiana. The captain and first officer were not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 on-demand cargo flight.

The Royal Air Cargo flight, was being operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan from Southwest Florida International Airport, Fort Myers, Florida, to Clark Regional Airport (JVY), Jeffersonville, Indiana.

The captain reported that the takeoff, climb, and en route portions of the flight were normal with the first officer acting as the pilot flying. As they approached JVY, he and the first officer had briefed and set up for the instrument landing system approach (ILS) to runway 18, expecting to break out of the overcast cloud layer and execute a visual approach to runway 36 due to more favorable winds. Upon exiting the overcast he activated the airport’s pilot controlled lighting system and the first officer saw the runway. Both pilots stated they believed the runway that they saw was runway 36. They maneuvered the airplane visually toward the runway that was in-sight and executed a landing. The captain stated that upon touchdown it became clear that they had inadvertently landed on runway 32. In his report, the captain said that both he and the first officer were aware that runway 14-32 was closed.

The airplane struck a snow berm at the edge of the intersection with runway 36, the landing gear broke from the airplane and the airplane slid to a stop. The airplane sustained damage to the landing gear, lower fuselage, wings and ventral strakes. According to the airplane manufacturer the strakes are critical for aerodynamic stability and would adversely affect the flying characteristics of the airplane.

The first officer stated that while flying to JVY they activated the pilot-controlled lighting and saw a runway light up. They visually lined up and landed on the runway that they saw and believed to be runway 36, which was runway 32. Both pilots reported that the only runway lights that they saw during the approach were the lights on runway 32, and there were no visible indications that the runway they approached was closed. Both pilots also stated that during the visual approach that they did not verify using their directional gyroscope that they were lined up  with the intended runway.

In a telephone interview with the airport manager, he confirmed that the runway was closed and that a notice to airmen (NOTAM) had been issued to that effect. In addition, the Automated Weather Observing System recording, available to the pilots via the aircraft communication radio, was appended with the runway closure information. The airport manager stated that the runway was closed due to the large amount of snow that they had received. He estimated that the runway was covered with about 4 inches of snow that had yet to be cleared. He noted that the runway lights were on due to the snowplow operations that were taking place as an aid in determining the location of the runway edge. There were no plow trucks on runway 32 at the time of the accident because they had stopped for a dinner break and he confirmed that the runway lights were left on during this time. He noted that, depending on the direction the airplane was coming from the lights for runway 36 may not have been visible due to the snow berms along the runway edge obstructing their view from the side. While interviewing the airport manager he relayed that the accident had him thinking about the visibility of the plow equipment even though in this case the plow equipment was not on the runway. The equipment used had bright lights that would be clearly visible to an airplane approaching to land if the plow equipment was heading toward the airplane, but there are no highly visible lights on the rear of the plow equipment. The airport manager has decided to add lights to the rear that can be activated during plow operations to aid an approaching airplane in seeing the equipment if in use.

Information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that a NOTAM referencing the closure of runway 14/32 was in effect at the time of the accident.