Santa Monica Airport

The preliminary report into last month’s fatal crash at Santa Monica Airport provides additional details about the accident but no conclusions regarding the cause. 

The two victims are not named in the report but friends and family have been mourning flight instructor Christian West and student Jackson Nazario since their deaths on Sept. 8 when an introductory flight lesson went wrong. 

According to the NTSB report, West provided Nazario with about 45 minutes of basic ground instruction before their flight. The plane then departed at about 3:51 p.m. and flew along the coast until it reached Malibu where it turned around and came back to the airport. 

“Multiple witnesses observed the airplane land on runway 21, with one describing the landing as hard,” said the report. “The witnesses stated that the airplane then began to aggressively pitch up and climb, while the engine made a sound consistent with it going to full power. All the witnesses provided similar accounts of the airplane continuing to climb in a nose up attitude, before leveling off at the apex of the climb, then spinning to the left, descending, and colliding with the ground.”

Video evidence also shows the plane touching the ground before suddenly climbing almost vertically for several seconds and then crashing to the ground. The preliminary document draws no conclusions about the cause but on a recording of the communication between the plane and the airport West can be heard screaming “let go, let go, let go, let go …”

While the Santa Monica Fire Department responded to the crash, according to the report the cabin, inboard wings and entire tail section were consumed by fire, with only ash remnants of the aft cabin and tail structure remaining.

A final report will be issued in 12-18 months.