Fresno Crash Was Phoenix Air’s 4th Fatal Accident Since 1985

<i> Associated Press</i>

Last week’s crash of a Learjet in Fresno was Phoenix Air Group Ltd.'s fourth fatal aviation accident since 1985, a San Francisco newspaper reported Saturday.

In Fresno, the pilot and co-pilot died Wednesday when their jet smashed into an apartment building while attempting an emergency landing on a residential street. Eighteen people on the ground were injured.

The crews in the three previous Phoenix Air crashes also died, according to National Transportation Safety Board records. One crash involved a Gates Learjet similar to the one flown in the Fresno accident.

The NTSB records identified the cause of the three earlier crashes as pilot error, but officials of Phoenix Air, based in Cartersville, Ga., said two of those reports were in error.


Dent Thompson told the San Francisco Chronicle the cause of the first crash is still undetermined, and the third was caused by a mechanical failure.

The Fresno crash, which came after an Air Force training mission, was a fluke, he said.

“These guys left their facility in Oregon and flew down and completed the sortie,” he said. “It was a very uneventful mission. On the way back, they ran into an unexpected engine problem, and you know the rest.”

An NTSB spokesman said it will be at least six months before investigators know the cause of the Fresno crash, which killed Richard Anderson, 36, and Brad Sexton, 34, both of Klamath Falls, Ore.

* The first of the four Phoenix Air crashes came in February, 1985, when a prop-driven Beechcraft crashed while taking off during a snowstorm in Cartersville. The NTSB said the pilot was not familiar with instrument flying in marginal weather.

* The second occurred in Monroe, La., in January, 1988, when a Gates Learjet 36-A nosed into the ground while attempting to land. The NTSB called the pilot “inattentive.”

* The third accident in June, 1989, involved a Dassault-Breguet Falcon 20 that clipped a utility tower and crashed while taking off from Cartersville. The NTSB said the pilot may have been suffering from fatigue.