Cessna Citation 551 crashes in the Baltic Sea
LONDON – A Cessna Citation 551, registration OE-FGR, flying from Jerez to Cologne lost contact with air traffic control over Spain earlier this afternoon. The aircraft’s autopilot appeared to have steered the aircraft to waypoints along its pre-selected route of flight.
The Austrian-registered aircraft took off from Jerez in Spain at 2:56 p.m. local time today, Sunday September 4, for Cologne. The flight had proceeded normally, until it continued to fly over the German city and continued on a direct route that took it through Germany and into the Baltic Sea.
The aircraft was flying at FL360, or 36,000 feet. The light jet has a maximum service altitude of 43,000 feet.
The aircraft, a Cessna 551 Citation II (s/n 551-0021) is 42 years old, having first flown in October 1979. It has recently performed a variety of flights across Europe and is now owned by one owner private.
In German airspace, QRFs Neuburg and Laage were dispatched to intercept the aircraft. The Swedish Coast Guard directed SAR helicopters and a Q300 aircraft to the scene.
The plane was confirmed to have fuel to fly until 17:40 UTC and was operating with 4 passengers on board.
According to sources, a passenger was seen in the cabin gesturing to intercept Air Force personnel. German and Danish military jets were sent to inspect the plane, and Johan Wahlstrom of the Swedish Maritime Administration said: “They couldn’t see anyone in the cockpit.”
5:37 p.m. UTC: The aircraft turned east towards the Baltic Sea port of Ventspils, Latvia, before making another turn shortly thereafter.
17:44 UTC: The plane was shown spiraling down into the Baltic Sea on FlightRadar24. The plane was followed by more than 290,000 people on the online site.
17:45 UTC: According to FlightRadar24, the plane crashed into the Baltic Sea, indicating a rate of descent of -8000 feet per minute.
6:00 p.m. UTC: The Swedish Coast Guard’s Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft is en route to the site.
6:24 p.m. UTC: SAR ships are present at the crash site in the Baltic Sea. The Latvian Coast Guard vessel KA14 Astra also appears to be heading towards the crash site.
6:45 p.m. UTC: News sources report that the plane had four people on board. German newspaper Bild referenced sources who claimed the owner/pilot had previously reported issues with the Citation’s cabin pressurization system.
It is understood at this point that the pilot, a man, a woman and their daughter were the occupants of the plane. Bild also claimed that air traffic controllers lost radio contact with the plane before it left Spanish controlled airspace.
7:30 p.m. UTC: A private Scandlines commercial vessel which assisted in the search leaves the crash site. The ship was traveling from Ventspils to Norvik, Sweden, when it was asked to help with the search. The Latvian Coast Guard vessel KA 14 and a Lithuanian SAR helicopter are still at the scene.
FlightRadar 24 flight data shows a harrowing flight profile as the plane headed for the Baltic Sea. The aircraft impacted with a recorded rate of descent of -8,000 feet per minute.
21:00 UTC: 3 Latvian SAR vessels remain in the search area.
MON September 5 17:45 UTC: A spokesperson for Cologne-based charter company Quick Air confirmed that company owner Karl-Peter Griesemann was piloting the Cessna Citation jet on the flight from Jerez, Spain. Mr. Griesemann is also the owner of the plane. He was accompanied on the flight by his wife, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend.
The head of Latvia’s search and rescue effort, Peteris Subbota, also appeared on Latvian television, saying wreckage, a slick of concentrated waste and an oily slick were spotted near the site of the accident, but no sign of those on board was found.
This is a developing story. Please check back for further updates.