Poor weather, poor decision

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Berne, N.Y. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: There was no record of the 153-hour private pilot, who did not have an instrument rating, obtaining a weather briefing or filing a flight plan prior to the accident flight.

Witnesses on the ground said the clouds were “right over the trees” at the time of the accident. The airplane flew low, then crashed in rising terrain while trying to turn.

The weather was so poor that the pilot of a police helicopter dispatched to the scene immediately after the accident reported that he chose to abort the mission about 1/4 mile before reaching the crash site due to weather conditions.

The post-accident examination of the wreckage revealed no pre-impact mechanical anomalies.

Probable cause: The pilot’s continued visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a collision with trees and rising terrain while attempting to reverse course. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to obtain a preflight weather briefing.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA422

This July 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. Richard says

    I would love to know why the results of an NTSB probable cause of an accident is not admissable in court. I guess it would put too many ambulance chasing attornies out of business.

    • says

      Good question, I think your guess is likely correct. That is the type of thing that makes us lose sleep, we can avoid the weather, we can’t avoid the attorneys.

  2. Kimberly Bush says

    Meg, these cautionary tales are interesting. They need to reach a wider audience.
    At the same time, I am a firm advocate for balanced reporting. How many GA planes took off and landed safely on the same day as this crash?

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