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NTSB releases preliminary report on plane crash in Rockingham County, Va.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report on Tuesday that provides details on a single-engine plane crash that killed a pilot after departing Winchester, Va., on Jan. 11. ( More...

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CK N 15
Obviously, we all have various flight training experiences. I was lucky, large PT141 school, no busted check rides, no extra training, a diploma, ASMEL, CFI-II. Less than 400 hours total time, all in training, maybe a few pleasure flights in my local practice area.

Then I got my first job in KMTH, FL doing rental check outs and whatever primary students I could dig up. One of the advantages of the less than $200/week salary was use of a VFR C-150 for the cost of the fuel.

Somehow, I ended up well after the end of evening civil twilight in Key West,with girlfriend, no moon, departing runway 27 - over the ocean, had to get the plane back before morning, out over the ocean, sans any form of horizon.

I realized at Vr that this IFR stuff was no joke. Yes, I had my ratings,hood time, and Link Trainer time.

Staring into the black. I think "Startle Factor" and :Rookie Factor" hit at 100AGL. Then remembering I'm supposed to ever so gently simultaneously use Attitude indicator for an easy 25 deg bank left climbing turn, using the airspeed , and needle and ball, VSI only. No outside reference.

My first actual IMC, and I had my girls life in my hands. The climbing 180 degree turn to When I got leveled off at 3,000 ft heading down the now visible visible occasional street lights heading east gave me time to take a breath. I had successfully departed IFR and got headed roughly east and home.

That was over 35 years, and 20,000 flight hours ago, but it's one an important memory.

A simple unexpected IMC departure (I hadn't experienced a night departure over a moonless night over the ocean, nor had I even considered how different having zero references outside the aircraft after Vr was) The adrenaline was there alright and I learned that just because I had the un-blemished training record, I'm still learning something new quite frequently.

victorbravo77 2
Awesome comment. I learned SEL in a 150 but nothing like you.

Too bad some knucklehead rolled N6391K into a ball and walked away.

I had to switch to the C172 :(
victorbravo77 1
... into a ball on the takeoff roll. Right side door popped open, apparently.
Doodybutch 6
This sounds like VFR into IMC but we will have to wait for the final report. Standard private pilot instruction places and reinforces the idea that if you are not instrument rated and you fly into IMC, you will soon spiral into the ground. I wonder if this is a self fulfilling prophesy and this teaching actually contributes to fatal accidents. Perhaps we should substantially increase instrument training for student pilots and reinforce the idea that they can easily survive this with basic skills and prompt help from ATC.
CK N 3
Michael Osmers 1
Also agree. Add to that the direct line course to the home field is 15nm from the crash site in the middle of the valley. This is my back yard and I have to wonder how he got so far west in the highest terrain in the area. Given the conditions and experience level the fight was ill advised but there’s an airway there (though it works it’s way into high terrain further south as well) or easier yet Interstate 81 which also runs down the valley which itself goes all the way to destination with elevations and obstacles not exceeding 2000’ (with a few planned zigs and zags) the whole way and lots of alternate airports if it comes to that. Lastly, in this part of the country mountain obscuration is a real thing and considering the position of the wreckage and reported weather it’s quite possible he never saw the trees until he was in them. All very sad and unnecessary.
Ron Slater 5
According to FAA and pilot records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate. He did not possess an instrument rating.

Pat, I would like to solve this puzzle
crackup 3
An incredible challenge to deal with perceptual narrowing due to fear and stress while at the same time telling yourself not to trust the few senses you have left. Its not intuition that keeps you alive its training and experience.
Steve Jensen 3
Too much airplane - not enough training?
barry speronello 3
January 11th at night in Virginia, it wouldn't be surprising to experience icing in clouds at 5,000 ft MSL. Ceiling was at about 5000 ft MSL (3800 ft AGL at Bridgewater AP, elevation 1165 ft MSL). Well after dark on a cloudy night. What does he do? Level and climb while accumulating ice? Descend to below 5000 ft in the dark. He got himself into a bad situation.

What does he do? Cross his fingers that the ice doesn't bring him down? Descend to just below the clouds and pray that he misses the terrain? The sectional shows a maximum elevation in that quadrant of 4800 ft MSL, and higher to the west. Most is below that. Terrain just to the east is lower in a valley (ca. <2000 ft MSL). 4800 ft altitude might keep him safe long enough to make a 180 and get out of the situation. The wreckage was on a southerly heading, so maybe he was doing just that when he crashed.

Sounds to me like he got himself into a bad situation and gambled that he could get out of it by turning back before he hit terrain. But he decided too late and went too low. Maybe the clouds were lower than would be calculated from the Bridgewater AWOS and he descended too low for fear of losing control in IMC. His luck was not good enough to compensate for his decision making.
Tom Bruce 3
was a controller So Lake Tahoe summer of 1975 a crash every 2 weeks... density altitude.. downdrafts and turbulence every afternoon..Sunday departures a zoo... like this guy...relatively inexperienced pilots would get themselves in a bad situation.. Cessna 123, wind 180 at 15 peak gust 25, density altitude 9500 feet, caution turbulence and downdrafts over the last half of the runway....cleared for takeoff
tom lindamood 2
know where you are on your map and note terrain. Matters not VFR, IFR, if you don't know where you are in mountainous terrain, the ground will rise up to smite thee.
Richard Bond 1
Get home it is strikes again. Night, mountains, you better be IFR or very, very, familiar with the local,region.
Sean Keehner -1
Sorry to hear about this. If you plan on flying cross country, one should have an instrument rating.
Weather at the origin could be great, but the enroute or destination could be ifr.
Michael Blackstock 6
Define what you mean by 'cross country.' The term Cross Country is a term of aviation art and law. Typically, it means flying between two airports that are more than 50 miles apart using one's core piloting skills. It's a basic and required part of private pilot training for every PPL.

There is nothing I read in that article that suggests having an instrument rating would have changed the outcome.
Loek Guntenaar 6
Agree PPL training prepares for cross country (including judgement whether the en route weather is VFR and within personal limitations).
Regarding benefit of instrument rating: following the article, launching at 6000 ft, descending to 5500 ft, wreckage at 4000 ft and cloud layer at 3800 ft are indications the pilot may have ended up in IMC. An instrument rating would have been helpful in that case.
Loek Guntenaar 2
Agree PPL training prepares for cross country (including judgement whether the en route weather is VFR and within personal limitations).
Regarding benefit of instrument rating: following the article, launching at 6000 ft, descending to 5500 ft, wreckage at 4000 ft and cloud layer at 3800 ft are indications the pilot may have ended up in IMC. An instrument rating would have been helpful in that case.

dcmeigs 1
How are you going to train for an instrument rating without flying cross country without one?
victorbravo77 3
You don't go if the weather within 50 miles is IMC. I think that was the point.

Like good divers knowing when to call a dive, good pilots shouldn't press (or go looking for) a bad situation regardless of training.

The adage about old versus bold pilots certainly comes to mind.
Bayouflier 1
Thanks for the tip Sean.


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