Sunday, May 12, 2019

Visual Flight Rules Encounter with Instrument Meteorological Conditions: Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six, N3371W, fatal accident occurred November 12, 2017 in Fountain Run, Monroe County, Kentucky

An air-traffic controller did not provide the safest options after a Kentucky pilot flew into an area of limited visibility and asked for help, family members of crash victims have charged in a federal lawsuit.

The plane crashed as a result of the “illegal and negligent instruction” of the air-traffic controller, the lawsuit alleges.

“This case is about shining the light of truth on what happened that day and what air traffic control did to substantially contribute to that plane crashing,” said Henry Queener, an attorney who represents the estates of three people who died in the crash.

The crash happened on Nov. 12, 2017, as Scott T. Foster, 41, an attorney in Somerset, and his son Noah, 15 returned from a hunting trip in western Tennessee with Kyle P. Stewart, 41, a dentist in Somerset, and Doug Whitaker, 40, who had served as chaplain for the Somerset Police Department and also was a lawyer.

Foster was the pilot.

Foster’s plane, a Piper PA32 built in 1965, hit trees in a heavily-wooded area near Fountain Run, in Barren County, and came to rest wedged between tree trunks.

The three men died at the scene. Rescuers found Noah alive, but he was pronounced dead at a hospital in Bowling Green.

In a report issued this week, the National Transportation Board said the probable cause of the crash was that Foster, who wasn’t rated to fly by instruments alone, flew into an area where less visibility would have required flying by instruments and became disoriented.

The report included a discussion of how pilots rated to fly by sight alone can become disoriented in conditions requiring instrument flight.

A pilot in that circumstance can have the sensation that the plane is flying in a direction it is not, and may as a result change course in a way that feels correct, but makes the descent worse, the NTSB said.

The NTSB did not mention the icing on the wings of Foster’s plane as a potential cause of the accident, but the lawsuit raises that potential.

There was a report of light icing from another pilot in the area before the crash, the lawsuit says.

Foster and his passengers were flying home from a hunting trip in Tennessee when Foster called the air-traffic control center in Memphis to report he’d encountered conditions requiring instrument flight.

Foster requested information on a flight path to better visibility.

The controller radioed other planes and called back to Foster to report that the clouds topped out at an altitude of about 8,000 feet.

Foster said he would climb to that altitude, but instead radar showed the plane made a series of shallow turns between 7,000 feet and 7,300 feet, followed by a downward right turn with increasing rates of banking and descent.

Less than a minute after saying he would climb to 8,000 feet, Foster radioed that the plane was gown down.

A witness on the ground said the plane was in a nosedive when it dropped out of the clouds.

The lawsuit said the air-traffic controller failed to suggest that Foster make a level turn of 180 degrees to go back the way he’d come before entering the area of lower visibility.

That is the primary maneuver flight instructors tell visual-only pilots to use if they inadvertently encounter conditions requiring instrument flight, the lawsuit says.

The controller knew, or should have known, that the second alternative was to divert Foster’s flight and descend to the nearest airport he could see, according to the lawsuit.

The controller radioed Foster to tell him the nearest airfield was in Tompkinsville, but only after Foster had reported his plane was going down.

Instead of suggesting the two safer alternatives, the controller told Foster to climb through 3,000 feet of icing conditions, the lawsuit says.

The controller’s instruction to an aircraft “piloted by a visual-only pilot to climb through 3,000 feet of icing conditions was illegal and grossly negligent,” the lawsuit charges.

“Mr. Foster was not offered any of the many safer alternatives and instead was led down a terrible path of clouds and icing when the air traffic controller knew Mr. Foster was a visual only pilot, and his plane had no deicing equipment,” Queener said in a release.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for the estates of Scott and Noah Foster and Whitaker.

The plaintiffs are Scott Foster’s widow, Amy; the administrator of his estate, Michael Foster; and Whitaker’s widow, Sara.

The defendant is the federal government. The Federal Aviation Administration employed the controller.

An FAA spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t comment on litigation.

Amy Foster said in a release that she hopes the lawsuit turns up more information.

“It has been absolutely without a doubt devastating to not just our family, but the whole community,” she said of the crash. The family includes two other children.

Foster said there is no getting over such a loss.

“You learn to live with it. It becomes a part of who you are, and you just find a way to keep going,” Amy Foster said.

Sara Whitaker said in the release that her husband’s death is “a nightmare we can’t wake up from.” She is raising three children without their father.

Stewart’s daughter, Kamryn Stewart, has sued Foster’s estate, alleging he acted recklessly and negligently in flying into conditions he wasn’t trained to handle.

The estate has denied that Foster acted improperly.

Original article ➤

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Louisville, Kentucky
Piper Aircraft; Vero Beach, Florida
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Fountain Run, KY
Accident Number: ERA18FA022
Date & Time: 11/12/2017, 1410 CST
Registration: N3371W
Aircraft: PIPER PA32
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The noninstrument-rated private pilot did not obtain an official weather briefing or file a flight plan before departing on the cross-country flight with three passengers. About 55 minutes into the flight, while cruising at 5,500 ft and receiving visual flight rules (VFR) flight following services from air traffic control, the pilot advised the controller that he was climbing the airplane to "maintain VFR." Six minutes later, after completing a series of erratic turns between 6,600 and 7,200 ft, the pilot advised the controller that he had encountered instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and requested vectors to an altitude with "more visibility." The controller advised that the cloud tops were reported about 8,000 ft, and the pilot stated that he would climb the airplane to that altitude; however, the airplane did not begin a climb. Instead, the airplane's radar track showed a series of shallow left and right turns before it depicted a sharp, tightening right turn and a rapid descent before radar contact was lost in the area of the accident site. Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of fire, no pre-impact mechanical anomalies, and a distribution that was consistent with an in-flight breakup.

One witness near the accident site described seeing the airplane as it appeared from beneath the clouds in a vertical descent, heard a "pop," and then watched as the airplane "just blew apart" before it disappeared from view behind trees. The witness stated that the weather at the time of the accident was "solid fog."

It is likely that the pilot's decision to continue the flight into deteriorating weather conditions resulted in his loss of airplane control due to spatial disorientation. The restricted visibility and entry into IMC were conducive to the development of spatial disorientation, and the airplane's erratic flight track, which included altitude and directional changes inconsistent with progress toward the destination, the rapidly descending right turn depicted on radar, and the in-flight breakup are all consistent with the known effects of spatial disorientation.

Despite not being instrument rated, the pilot chose to continue along the flight route as weather conditions deteriorated, rather than diverting, consistent with a common behavioral trap known as "get-there-it is." The spouse of one passenger had planned a surprise party for the afternoon of their return. It is likely that the pilot's desire to get to the destination airport because of the party or another unknown reason contributed to this behavior. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The noninstrument-rated pilot's intentional visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a loss of control due to spatial disorientation. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's self-induced pressure to complete the flight. 


Performance/control parameters - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Decision making/judgment - Pilot (Cause)
Spatial disorientation - Pilot (Cause)
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)
Motivation/respond to pressure - Pilot (Factor)

Environmental issues
Clouds - Decision related to condition (Cause)
Clouds - Effect on personnel (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

VFR encounter with IMC (Defining event)
Loss of visual reference
Loss of control in flight

Emergency descent
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

On November 12, 2017, at 1410 central standard time, a Piper PA-32-260, N3371W, was destroyed during an in-flight breakup and collision with terrain while maneuvering near Fountain Run, Kentucky. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which departed Everett-Stewart Regional Airport UCY), Union City, Tennessee, at 1303, and was destined for Lake Cumberland Regional Airport (SME), Somerset, Kentucky.

The pilot and passengers were returning from a hunting trip, and the spouse of one passenger had planned a surprise party for the afternoon of their return. Radar and voice information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the pilot contacted the Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) and was receiving visual flight rules (VFR) flight following services. The airplane was in cruise flight travelling eastbound about 5,500 ft mean seal level (msl) for about 30 minutes before the radar track depicted a slight turn to a northeasterly heading.

At 1357:44, the pilot informed the controller that he was going to climb the airplane in order to maintain VFR flight. Beginning at 1358, the radar track indicated a climb to about 6,600 ft followed by a series of left and right turns while maintaining a generally northeast track.

About 1404, the radar track depicted a nearly 180° left turn, followed immediately by a 180° right turn until the airplane resumed an approximate northeast heading. The airplane's altitude varied between 6,800 and 7,200 ft during the turns.

At 1406:20, the pilot stated, "we hit some uh IMC. Is there any vectoring to an altitude here with some uh more visibility?" The controller advised the pilot to standby while he communicated with other aircraft and Nashville Approach Control. He then directed the pilot to "maintain VFR," which the pilot acknowledged.

At 1407:51, the controller shared a pilot report of cloud tops "around eight thousand or so". At that time, the airplane's altitude was about 7,325 ft. The pilot replied that he would climb the airplane to 8,000 ft. Over the next 30 seconds, the radar track depicted shallow left and right turns with altitudes that varied between 7,000 and 7,300 ft.

Beginning at 1408:41, the airplane's track depicted a shallow right turn at 7,299 ft and 144 knots followed by a descending right turn that increased in rates of bank and descent.

At 1408:58, at an altitude of 5,675 ft, the pilot transmitted, "We're going down."

The final radar target was located over the accident site at 1409:05, at an altitude of 2,838 ft and an airspeed of 125 knots.

One witness near the accident site described seeing the airplane "in a nosedive" before he lost sight of it behind trees. Another witness was deer hunting from a tree stand when his attention was drawn to the sound of the airplane. He watched the airplane appear out of the clouds and stated that the sound of the engine was "cutting in and out." He added that when the airplane came into his view, "it went into a spin and there was a loud pop and then [the airplane] just blew apart." He stated that the airplane came out of the clouds about 300 to 400 ft above the ground, and that the weather at the time was "solid fog." 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 41, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/14/2014
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 07/08/2017
Flight Time:  256 hours (Total, all aircraft), 247 hours (Total, this make and model), 5.5 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft)

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. He did not possess an instrument rating. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on October 14, 2014. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had logged 251 total hours of flight experience, of which 246 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.

The pilot had logged 5.9 total hours of simulated (hood) instrument flight experience, of which 2 hours were in 2014, 2.1 hours in 2015, and 1.8 hours on July 8, 2017.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N3371W
Model/Series: PA32 260
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 32-217
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 10/10/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 5 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2776.94 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: C91  installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-540 SERIES
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 260 hp
Operator:On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1965 and had accrued 2,776.97 total aircraft hours. The most recent annual inspection was completed on October 10, 2017, at 2,771.94 total aircraft hours. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: GLW, 716 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 14 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1415 CST
Direction from Accident Site: 360°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 500 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 4 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 210°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.25 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 11°C / 11°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Precipitation
Departure Point: Union City, TN (UCY)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Somerset, KY (SME)
Type of Clearance: VFR Flight Following
Departure Time: 1303 CST
Type of Airspace: Class E 

The 1415 weather observation at Glasgow Municipal Airport (GLW) Glasgow, Kentucky, 14 miles north of the accident site, included a broken ceiling at 500 ft above ground level (agl), an overcast ceiling at 1,300 ft agl, and 10 miles visibility. The wind was from 210° at 4 knots. The temperature and dew point were 11°C, and the altimeter setting was 30.25 inches of mercury.

The 1353 weather observation at Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport (BWG), Bowling Green, Kentucky, included a broken ceiling at 1,200 ft agl, an overcast ceiling at 1,300 ft agl, and 9 miles visibility. The wind was from 230° at 7 knots. The temperature was 12°C, the dew point was 11°C, and the altimeter setting was 30.25 inches of mercury.

The 1335 weather observation at UCY, included an overcast ceiling at 3,500 ft agl, and 10 miles visibility. The wind was from 240° at 5 knots. The temperature was 15°C, the dew point was 10°C, and the altimeter setting was 30.26 inches of mercury.

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-16 "visible" and infrared (imagery from 1407 revealed cloudy conditions over the accident site region. Infrared cloud-top temperatures in the area immediately surrounding the accident location varied between about 0°C and -7°C, which corresponded to cloud top heights about 8,500 ft and 15,000 ft, respectively.

At 1238, an AIRMET SIERRA for IFR conditions was issued for a region that bordered the accident location and advised of ceilings below 1,000 ft, visibility below 3 statute miles, and precipitation and mist.

The ceiling at the destination airport at the estimated time of arrival was 6,000 ft overcast.

The pilot did not file a flight plan, and there was no record of him having obtained a weather briefing from Leidos Flight Services, Direct User Access Terminal Service, or Foreflight before departure.

In an interview with police, the pilot's spouse stated that her husband "always" checked weather conditions before flight, and that the Foreflight application was "constantly" streaming to his iPad while flying.

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 3 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 36.773333, -85.992222 (est) 

The wreckage was examined at the accident site. There was an odor of fuel at the scene, and the majority of the airplane was accounted for except the left aileron balance weight, left tip tank, stabilator trim tab, and about 6 ft of the right wing and right aileron. Parts associated with the rudder and right wing were located about 0.75 mile northeast of the main wreckage. The wreckage displayed no evidence of an in-flight fire. The entire wreckage path was oriented about 240° magnetic, and the main wreckage path was about 100 ft long.

The initial impact point was in treetops about 60 ft high, and the main wreckage came to rest wedged between tree trunks. The cockpit, cabin area, and empennage were destroyed by impact. Pieces of angularly cut wood were entangled with the wreckage.

The airplane was fragmented and scattered along the length of the wreckage path. Control continuity to the wings, rudder, and elevator was confirmed through the control cables and bellcranks to the cockpit area. Separations in the control cables displayed signatures consistent with cuts by recovery personnel or overload separation.

The engine was separated from the airframe and marked the end of the debris path. The propeller was separated from the engine and came to rest 25 ft northeast of the engine. The propeller blades displayed similar "S" bending, trailing-edge gouges, and chordwise scratching.

The engine crankshaft was rotated by hand through the vacuum pump drive pad. Continuity was confirmed through the accessory section to the valve train and crankshaft. Compression was confirmed on all cylinders using the thumb method. The magnetos were intact in their mounts. Once removed, they produced spark at all terminal leads when tested.

The vacuum pump rotated smoothly, and when disassembled, the rotor and vanes were intact.

The carburetor and fuel pump were destroyed by impact.

Parts associated with the left aileron balance weight, left tip tank, the stabilator trim tab, and about 6 ft of the right wing and right aileron were located by hunters months after the accident and were recovered on October 30, 2018.

Medical And Pathological Information

The Office of The Chief Medical Examiner, Louisville, Kentucky, performed the autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was listed as "blunt force injuries."

The laboratory at FAA Forensic Sciences, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot. The results were negative for the presence of drugs or alcohol. 

Additional Information

FAA Advisory Circular AC 60-22, Aeronautical Decision Making, stated, "Pilots, particularly those with considerable experience, as a rule always try to complete a flight as planned, please passengers, meet schedules, and generally demonstrate that they have 'the right stuff.'" One of the common behavioral traps identified was "Get-there-itis." The text stated, "Common among pilots, [get-there-itis] clouds the vision and impairs judgment by causing a fixation on the original goal or destination combined with a total disregard for any alternative course of action."

According to the Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, FAA-H-8083-25B:

Under normal flight conditions, when there is a visual reference to the horizon and ground, the sensory system in the inner ear helps to identify the pitch, roll, and yaw movements of the aircraft. When visual contact with the horizon is lost, the vestibular system becomes unreliable. Without visual references outside the aircraft, there are many situations in which combinations of normal motions and forces create convincing illusions that are difficult to overcome.

According to the Instrument Procedures Handbook, FAA-H-8083 (AB):

The vestibular sense (motion sensing by the inner ear) can confuse the pilot. Because of inertia, sensory areas of the inner ear cannot detect slight changes in aircraft attitude nor can they accurately sense attitude changes that occur at a uniform rate over time. Conversely, false sensations often push the pilot to believe that the attitude of the aircraft has changed when in fact it has not, resulting in spatial disorientation.

FAA Advisory Circular 61-134, General Aviation Controlled Flight into Terrain Awareness, stated,

According to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FAA data, one of the leading causes of GA accidents is continued VFR flight into IMC… The importance of complete weather information, understanding the significance of the weather information, and being able to correlate the pilot's skills and training, aircraft capabilities, and operating environment with an accurate forecast cannot be emphasized enough… VFR pilots in reduced visual conditions may develop spatial disorientation and lose control, possibly going into a graveyard spiral…

According to FAA publication AM-400-03/1, Medical Facts for Pilots,

The graveyard spiral is associated with a return to level flight following an intentional or unintentional prolonged bank turn. For example, a pilot who enters a banking turn to the left will initially have a sensation of a turn in the same direction. If the left turn continues (~20 seconds or more), the pilot will experience the sensation that the airplane is no longer turning to the left. At this point, if the pilot attempts to level the wings, this action will produce a sensation that the airplane is turning and banking in the opposite direction (to the right). If the pilot believes the illusion of a right turn (which can be very compelling), he/she will reenter the original left turn in an attempt to counteract the sensation of a right turn. Unfortunately, while this is happening, the airplane is still turning to the left and losing altitude. Pulling the control yoke/stick and applying power while turning would not be a good idea–because it would only make the left turn tighter. If the pilot fails to recognize the illusion and does not level the wings, the airplane will continue turning left and losing altitude until it impacts the ground.

NTSB Safety Alert SA-017, In-Cockpit NEXRAD Mosaic Imagery, advised pilots that weather radar "mosaic" imagery created from Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD) data is subject to latency, and that the age associated with the image on the cockpit display is always older than indicated, sometimes by as much as 15 to 20 minutes.

Honorable Scott T. Foster 
Second to his passion for his family, were his passions for flying, hunting, restoring cars, woodworking, movies, and traveling. Scott was a member of the Kentucky and Tennessee Bar Associations, and the National Rifle Association.

Noah Thomas Foster
Noah had an appreciation and love for flying, whether it was a radio controlled airplane or “wheels up” in the sky. 

Quinton Douglas "Doug" Whitaker
Doug was a man of God who touched the lives of many people with his life. He was an Attorney, Police Chaplain, and Air Force Veteran. 

Dr. Kyle Patrick Stewart
More than having DMD behind his name, Kyle was a loving, outgoing and kind hearted individual with the ability to love others unconditionally. Kyle enjoyed hunting, fishing, spending time with his family and friends as well as traveling the world. With his passion for outdoors he became an avid waterfowl hunter.  As a Dentist, Dr. Stewart was considerate, compassionate, caring and treated his patients with dignity, professionalism and respect.

Doug Whitaker
Photo taken November 11, 2017.

September 28, 2018 -  The insurance agency holding the policy on the aircraft in which Scott T. Foster and three others were killed has filed an answer in federal court to allegations of a violation of the Kentucky Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act.

U.S. Specialty Insurance Company (USSIC), contends that their policy only allows for $100,000 per person injured/deceased, meaning the estates of all of the victims in the November 2017 crash are entitled to $100,000 per each victim

That includes Doug Whitaker, an attorney with Foster's law firm and a former chaplain for the Somerset Police Department

Whitaker's widow, Sara Whitaker, claims that the insurance company should pay out $100,000 for each of Doug Whitaker's surviving family members -- herself and three minor children -- and $100,000 to Doug Whitaker's estate, or $500,000 total.

Sara Whitaker filed a counterclaim against USSIC in August after USSIC filed the case in U.S. District Court in May.

The original suit seeks to have a ruling in the dispute between the two parties over how much the Whitaker family is owed.

One of the estate's assertions is that the policy violates the Kentucky Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act because the policy for the six-seater plane states that the "Single Limit Bodily Injury/Property Damage" limit for each person is $1 million, but also states that limit for each individual passenger on the plane is $100,000.

If the plane had been at capacity, according to Whitaker's claim, the highest amount that could have been paid out was $600,000.

"[T]herefore, the per-person coverage could never reach the per-occurrence limit solely by providing coverage of $100,000 per passenger on the plane, even if fully occupied," the counterclaim states.

In USSIC's answer to the counterclaim, denies that it violated Kentucky law, as well as denying the interpretation of the policy's wording that Whitaker puts forth.

USSIC states that the policy's wording shows that the line item for "each person" says it is a $100,000 single limit, but the policy's $1 million limit is for "...all bodily injury and property damage" for "each occurrence."

USSIC also denies that Whitaker's insurance claim should be awarded because it should be "barred as a result of the good faith and reasonable conduct of USSIC and its adjusters, agents and/or other employees in handling the Defendants' claims, and because of the lack of fraud, malice, or outrageous or wrongful conduct by USSIC."

The suit stems from an airplane crash in which Foster, Whitaker, Kyle Stewart and Foster's son, Noah Foster, were killed.

The crash occurred on November 12 around 2 p.m. in a wooded area in Fountain Run, a community in Barren County. The four were returning to the Lake Cumberland Regional Airport after participating in a hunting trip in Tennessee. Scott Foster was the owner of the Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six, and was piloting the craft at the time.

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. A radar controller cannot see clouds or any kind of IMC that isn't precipitation. It is not the controllers responsibility to get the preflight briefing or enroute weather reports for VFR only pilots. The widow's are blaming the controller in hopes of a big payday because it is the government. The only person that has the right idea is the sister who is suing the pilot who exhibited poor decision making and cost the lives of 4 people. The pilot was in IMC for awhile before ever saying so. One of the worst things you can tell a low time VFR pilot in IMC to do is turn 180 degrees. You should first get the pilot to start relying on the instruments and maintain level flight first and foremost. Once the aircraft is stable, then get the pilot to make short turns and reestablish level flight. This is to prevent a graveyard spiral feeling from prolonged turning. The controller did what they are supposed to do and get PIREPs from other aircraft. The icing report was from over 100 miles away and over 30 minutes old.

    This unfortunate accident was a simple case of Get-There-Itis and a low time vfr pilot encountering forecasted IFR.

  2. I agree. I also don't understand why this pilot, with only 251 TT, had 246 hours in a Cherokee Six. Why didn't he spend more time in simpler aircraft, instead of a big, complex single? Was it a case of ego over common sense? Now his family and those of his dead friends are blaming everyone but the pilot, who clearly was a fault and found guilty of numerous lapses by the NTSB and FAA. I hope that no government agency or insurance company settles with them.