Cessna headed to Portland aborts takeoff, catches fire

Multnomah County

None of the 10 people aboard were injured

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A small jet bound for Portland went up in flames before even getting off the ground at a Northern California airport.

All 10 people on board escaped the fiery crash uninjured on Wednesday.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said the pilot of the twin-engine Cessna Citation jet aborted takeoff shortly before noon at Oroville Municipal Airport due to an unknown complication.

A twin-engine Cessna Citation jet with 10 people on board bound for PDX aborted takeoff on the runway at Oroville Municipal Airport, Aug. 21, 2019. (Courtesy of Justin Vaughan)

The jet slid off of the end of the runway into the grass and caught fire. Officials briefly closed nearby Highway 162.

Inside of the plane were 2 pilots and 8 passengers. Onlookers watched the crash unfold and were shocked to learn all 10 people survived.

“When you see an accident like that, you’d think there’s going to be fatalities,” said Jill Calcatera. “And thank God there weren’t.”

Former pilot Mat Lakota said he saw smoke billowing from the plane as fire consumed the chartered executive jet.

A twin-engine Cessna Citation jet with 10 people on board bound for PDX aborted takeoff on the runway at Oroville Municipal Airport, Aug. 21, 2019. (Courtesy to KOIN)

Firefighters were able to quickly control the small grass fire, but it took more than an hour to extinguish the jet, partly because it had just taken on 400 gallons of jet fuel, he said. A crash truck from nearby Chico sprayed the jet with foam to help extinguish the blaze.

“If you would have seen the enormous ball of fire and smoke — they are very, very lucky people,” said Lakota. “To actually see that jet crash on the end of our runway is spellbinding, to put it mildly.”

The airport, which does not have commercial flights, remained open.

Tom Young, an aviation expert, speculated about what happened on the runway.

“I suspect on this one there is a good chance that it was an engine problem or something of that nature and it became very obvious that it doesn’t make sense to continue,” Young said.

The pilot of a twin-engine Cessna Citation with 10 people aboard headed to Portland aborted its takeoff and caught fire after sliding off the runway, August 21, 2019 (CHP)

An official investigation is underway, led by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“There will be flight recorders and voice recorders,” Young said. “That is probably going to be the first place they look at. They will also go back and look at maintenance logs — previous write-ups.”

Historically, it takes the NTSB a year to determine a probable cause.

Deal said it was a personally chartered jet and its corporate passengers had stayed overnight in Oroville.

“It was attempting to take off, but early reports show that it never made it off the ground,” Deal said. The jet slid off the northern end of the runway onto a grassy area, but it never left the airport property. It was fully engulfed by the time firefighters arrived.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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