Wheels Up Citation Door Opens in Flight

ATC recording captures emergency landing when door swings open.

On August 6, two pilots and five passengers aboard a Wheels Up Citation Excel XLS were in for a scare when the door swung open as the plane climbed to 2,000 feet.

“The door is hanging and uh… passengers… I think they’re okay but they’re gonna be pretty upset,” the pilot said in recorded correspondence with an air traffic controller.

The chartered business jet had just taken off from the San Francisco International Airport and was en route to Drummond Island Airport in Michigan, when its pilot declared an emergency and asked to return to the airport.

“Cannot climb… I gotta hold the aircraft. We cannot climb and we cannot maintain clearance because of the clouds,” the pilot told the controller as he requested to make an instrument approach. The aircraft could not reach minimum vector altitude.

Fortunately, the plane soon emerged from the clouds and was able to make a visual approach. Mistaking the hanging door for the plane’s landing gear, a controller reported that the plane only had one landing gear down. However the landing gear was fully functioning, and the plane made a safe landing with emergency personnel standing by. All occupants evacuated the plane intact.

Hear the pilot’s intense conversation with ATC.

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