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Investigators release preliminary report into December plane crash in El Cajon

The debris of a plane crash pictured above caused damage to suburban neighborhood in El Cajon on Dec. 28, 2021.

At 7:12 p.m. on December 27, a medical transport plane carrying two pilots and two nurses was about to land at Gillespie Field in El Cajon.

In the last communication between the plane and air traffic control, the pilot asked them to turn up the lighting on the runway. The controller said it was all the way up.

Then something went terribly wrong. Moments later, the plane crashed into an El Cajon neighborhood.


All four people onboard the Learjet were killed, no one on the ground was hurt. The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, the federal agency that investigates all plane crashes, this week released a preliminary report.

RELATED: El Cajon plane crash probe continues; victims identified

Peter Knudson with the NTSB gave a few details about the final moments of the flight, which had originated in Santa Ana.

"The aircraft was in contact with the controllers at Gillespie Field and the pilot had requested change from an instrument flight approach to one of the runways to a visual approach to another runway 27r and was on the approach to that runway when the accident occurred," he said, adding they have not determined if that change played a role in the crash.

Another factor is generating a lot of speculation.


"The aircraft did hit a power line shortly before crashing ... it is unusual for aircraft to hit power lines," according to Knudson. But again, he said, "we have drawn no conclusion about what role that had in the accident."

Visibility is something else they’re looking into — that evening was overcast.

"Lighting conditions as well as the weather the cloud conditions things of that nature so all of that is what we’re going to be digging into more deeply," Knudson said.

However, what stands out about this crash is the fact that another happened just two months earlier involving the same airport, he said. That plane crashed in a Santee neighborhood killing the pilot and a UPS driver on the ground.

Investigators release preliminary report into December plane crash in El Cajon

If this airport has issues that are putting the community at risk the NTSB will address that in the final report, Knudson said.

"It’s possible that if we find safety issues that can be addressed we would potentially make safety recommendations to reduce the likelihood of this kind of accident occurring again," he said.

Investigations into both crashes are still in their initial phases. Final reports will take about 24 months to be completed.