WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. –
A business jet was buffeted by severe turbulence over New England, causing a rare passenger death and forcing the aircraft to divert to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, officials said Saturday.
Five people were aboard the Bombardier executive jet that was shaken by turbulence late Friday afternoon while travelling from Keene, New Hampshire, to Leesburg, Virginia, said Sarah Sulick, a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board.
The extent of the damage to the aircraft was unclear and the NTSB did not provide details including whether the victim was wearing a seatbelt.
The jet is owned by Conexon, a company based in Kansas City, Missouri, according to a Federal Aviation Administration database. The company, which brings high-speed internet to rural communities, declined comment Saturday.
NTSB investigators were interviewing the two crew members and surviving passengers as part of a probe into the deadly encounter with turbulence, Sulick said. The jet’s cockpit voice and data recorders were sent to NTSB headquarters for analysis, she said.
Turbulence, which is unstable air in the atmosphere, remains a cause for injury for airline passengers despite airline safety improvements over the years.
Earlier this week, seven people were hurt badly enough to be transported to hospitals after a Lufthansa Airbus A330 experienced turbulence while flying from Texas to Germany. The plane was diverted to Virginia’s Washington Dulles International Airport.
But deaths are extremely rare.
“I can’t remember the last fatality due to turbulence,” said Robert Sumwalt, a former NTSB chair and executive director of the Center for Aviation and Aerospace Safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Turbulence accounted for more than a third of accidents on larger commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018, according to the NTSB.