The “Ghost Private Plane” flew across Europe escorted by fighter jets who unsuccessfully tried to establish a radio contact, before tragically crashing in the Baltic Sea. A clip provides all the radio comms and tracks of the QRA jets involved in the interception and shadowing of the business jet.
On September 4, 2022, a Cessna 551 Citation II was scheduled to fly from Jerez, Spain to Cologne, Germany. Shortly after taking off, the pilot contacted air traffic control to signal a loss of cabin pressure, before stopping answering the radios. The Cessna flew all the way to Cologne, but then it continued for almost two hours in a straight line before running out of fuel and crashing in the Baltic Sea.
Let’s see what we know about this “ghost” jet and its last flight. This Cessna 551 Citation II was a 42-year-old airframe which first flew in 1979. Its manufacturer serial number was 551-0021, while its registration was changed in OE-FGR few years ago. Previously this registration belonged to an Embraer Phenom 100 registered in Austria, which was later sold in the US and subsequently changed registration.
A Cessna 551 Citation II/SP, OE-FGR, crashed into the Baltic Sea off Latvia with four on board.
The aircraft was enroute from Spain to Köln, Germany, at FL360 but continued past the destination until it crashed almost two hours later.https://t.co/1hQAuy4DQ1 pic.twitter.com/Il881l9Ezn
— Aviation Safety Network (ASN) (@AviationSafety) September 4, 2022
The aircraft belonged to Karl-Peter Griesemann, the owner of a charter company based in Cologne named Quick Air. He was also the pilot on this flight, while the passengers were his wife, his daughter and her fiancé. The route set in the Flight Management System was to bring the aircraft up to 36,000 ft and follow the route via Poitiers, Paris, Luxembourg and Euskirchen, with a final approach into Cologne.
The jet took off from Jerez at 12:56 UTC and started following the planned route. Once at the cruising altitude of 36,000 ft, the pilot reported to the Spanish ATC a cabin pressure problem. This was the last communication with the aircraft, as every following attempt to contact the aircraft went unanswered. Once over France, a Rafale from Mont de Marsan was scrambled to intercept OE-FGR, reporting the visual with the jet at 14:25 UTC.
Media reports indicate that OE-FGR was not reachable by air traffic control authorities for some time. Just a few moments ago, we stopped receiving signals from the aircraft. Final altitude received was 2100 ft at -8000fpm descent. https://t.co/iIVNoMNksW pic.twitter.com/EbRUhqCGLm
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) September 4, 2022
Radiohams and military airband monitors were able to listen to the comms in the clear of between the interceptors, the Military ATC agencies and the Air Defense radars. The following footage, sent us by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, includes conversations and radio calls, providing some interesting hints at the phases of the intercept and gives a good idea about the track of the ghost plane. You can also watch the German QRA LK01/02 heading to the plane and the German QRA (in the north of Germany) EA01/02 intercept the plane …. (French QRA was not visible on ADSBExchange).
Radio contacts were unsuccessful and the Rafale’s pilot also reported that no activity was visible in the cockpit. As the Cessna moved to northern France, another Rafale was scrambled from Saint Dizier and took over the interception mission and escorted the business jet as it flew over Belgium and Luxembourg with its autopilot engaged. When the aircraft entered German airspace, Eurofighters from Neuburg-Donau were scrambled to take over the intercept from the French colleagues at 15:57 UTC.
Again, the attempts to establish a radio contact were unsuccessful and no one could be seen in the cockpit or in the cabin. Once it reached Cologne, the Cessna continued on a straight route on its last set course. Another pair of Eurofighters was scrambled from Laage, continuing to escort the ghost plane until a Danish F-16 arrived on scene to take over while the ghost jet was over the Baltic Sea.
It looks like a private jet was intercepted by fighter jets above Germany (🇩🇪).
The private jet took off from Jerez Airport, southern Spain (🇪🇸) and is heading northeast. Currently unknown whether this is an exercise.
OE-FGR // #440A99 pic.twitter.com/VWYQHe6Q2a
— Aerospace Intelligence (@space_osint) September 4, 2022
While the aircraft crossed Swedish airspace, the Swedish authorities, planning for the worst, launched the Search and Rescue helicopters to fly in the same direction of the Citation. Shortly after, the aircraft was left without fuel and the engines failed one after another. The resulting asymmetric thrust after the loss of the first engine caused a slight turn, which combined with the ongoing loss of altitude, ultimately led to the RDAF pilots observing the aircraft entering a left-hand spiral off the Latvian coast.
The aircraft crashed at 17:45 UTC in an area about 37 km off the coast of Latvia. FlightRadar24 showed the aircraft’s last transmission at 2,100 feet and with a descent rate of 8,000 feet per minute. Swedish and Latvian authorities worked together on the SAR effort, with parts of the wreckage and human remains found a day later.
The situation with the aircraft gathered a lot of attention online during the flight. The was quickly shared on Twitter while, on Flight Radar 24 alone, more than 140,000 people tracked OE-FGR’s last flight, while more than 300,000 where witnessing it live on various websites. Many protested the complete coverage of the event provided by ADS-B tracking websites, stating that the feed of data from the aircraft should have been interrupted.
Although rare, it is not the first time a plane crash because of cabin depressurization. Such a failure can lead the occupants to lose consciousness before they could react to the problem. The most infamous instance of this type of incidents is Helios Airways Flight 522 on August 14, 2005, when a loss of cabin pressurization incapacitated the crew and left he aircraft flying until it ran out of fuel and crashed near Grammatiko, Greece, killing all 121 passengers and crew on board.