Citation Crashes into Suburban Atlanta Home

Pilot reported autopilot problems before the accident.

Cessna Citation I
The NTSB is investigating a Cessna Citation I crash that took the life of the pilot, after the aircraft slammed into a suburban Atlanta home.Peter Bakema/Wikimedia Commons

Crash investigators are beginning to piece together reports from people on the ground and information gleaned from a flight data recorder recovered from a Cessna Citation I that slammed into an unoccupied home in an Atlanta suburb Friday night.

The twinjet crashed about 15 miles north of its destination, Atlanta’s Fulton County Airport, at about 7:20 pm EST, killing the pilot, who was the sole occupant. Reports indicate the Atlanta-based pilot notified ATC he was experiencing autopilot difficulties before the crash.

A pilot who witnessed the accident from the ground reported the aircraft appeared to be flying normally until the moment it entered an extremely steep left turn. The jet’s nose then dropped and the aircraft went down.

The Aviation Safety Network reported ADS-B data showing the Citation’s descent from FL230 began at 18:59 local time with the aircraft reaching 3,100 feet 17 minutes later. The jet climbed again to 3,800 feet and remained there for about five minutes. The last ADS-B data point showed the aircraft flying at 55 knots in a descent less than 750 feet away from the point of impact. Weather at nearby Fulton County Airport reported an overcast layer at 5,500 feet, light winds and a visibility of more than 10 miles at the time of the accident.

No one on the ground was injured, although a post-crash fire destroyed the home the jet struck. The home’s occupants were attending a church service at the time of the crash. The Citation, registered to an Atlanta charter services company, had departed Cincinnati about an hour and a half before the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board expects to formally report on the details of the crash later this week.