Saturday, December 28, 2019

Piper PA-31T Cheyenne II, N42CV: Fatal accident occurred December 28, 2019 near Lafayette Regional Airport (KLFT), Louisiana

The husband of Carley McCord, a broadcaster who was one of five people killed in a Lafayette plane crash in December, has filed a lawsuit against the plane's owners and the pilot's estate.

Steven Ensminger Jr., the son of LSU football offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, sued in Lafayette Parish court seeking damages for his wife's death.

Ensminger's lawsuit claims the plane's owners and the pilot, Ian Biggs, were negligent in McCord's death, failing to properly maintain the plane and for letting Biggs fly in unfavorable weather conditions without proper training. 

Carley McCord, four others, killed in December crash

McCord and four others died on December 28th when the small passenger plane they were traveling in crashed shortly after takeoff from the Lafayette Regional Airport. McCord and the others were traveling to the Atlanta-DeKalb Peachtree Airport, on their way to attend the Peach Bowl semifinal championship game between LSU and Oklahoma.

Shortly after takeoff, the plane hit trees and power lines in front of an apartment on Verot School Road, then hit the road and continued across the U.S. Post Office parking lot before landing in a nearby field. 

The crash killed five of the six people on board, including the pilot, Biggs. The sixth passenger, Stephen Wade Berzas, was treated for burns that covered 75% of his body. A bystander, who was in the post office's parking lot, also was injured and suffered burns to 30% of her body. 

Ensminger Jr. filed the lawsuit earlier this month seeking damages from the plane's owners Global Data Systems Inc, Cheyenne Partners, LLC, Eagle Air, LLC and Southern Lifestyle Development Company LLC.; the insurance companies Sompo International Holdings and LTD, Endurance American Insurance Company; and the estate of Biggs. 

Global Data Systems is owned by Charles Vincent. His wife and son, 51-year-old Gretchen Vincent; and 15-year-old Michael Walker Vincent, also died in the crash. Robert Vaughn Crisp II, another victim, was the vice president of business development and field services at the company. Berzas was the vice president of sales.

Lawsuit claims owners, pilot did not properly inspect aircraft

In the lawsuit, Ensminger claims the owners and pilot owed McCord a “duty of care to inspect, service, repair, maintain and control the aircraft in a safe and airworthy condition so as not to cause injury or death to passengers.”

However, Ensminger alleges the owners and pilot breached those duties by failing to properly inspect and maintain the aircraft; failing to supervise the pilot; failing to protect its passengers against unreasonable risk of injury and death; and were negligent in the selection, operation, maintenance, custody, control and use of the plane. 

The morning of the crash, there was low visibility — about three-fourths of a mile — and the cloud base began at about 200 feet, according to the National Transportation and Safety Board. 

Biggs “lacked the experience and/or training to operate (the plane) in less than ideal meteorological conditions, as was the case on the date of the crash," Ensminger wrote in his lawsuit. Ensminger also claims the owners of the plane knew Biggs lacked the experience or training.

Biggs obtained his commercial pilot's license in 2005, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. The plane had its last maintenance check in October. It was last flown December 18th from Houston, which is about a 40-minute flight. Biggs was the pilot on that flight. 

Biggs had 1,531 hours of flight time, according to his last license update, the NTSB said. 

McCord had a fear of flying, Ensminger wrote in the lawsuit. He said she knew when the plane was crashing, which caused her to experience severe emotional trauma and panic and caused damage to her nervous system and psyche. 

“Upon information and belief, Carley McCord Ensminger sustained severely painful and debilitating bodily injuries when (the plane) contacted the ground and when the aircraft caught fire," according to the filing. "Said bodily injuries caused Carley McCord Ensminger to experience virtually unimaginable pain and suffering until the moment of her untimely death.”

Ensminger also claims he has suffered “extreme mental and emotional distress as a direct result of the death of this wife."

Other damages as a result of the plane crash and McCord's death include the "loss of love, affection, companionship and consortium of his wife;" mental anguish; loss of economic and financial support; and funeral expenses, according to the lawsuit. 

Ensminger does not say how much he is seeking in damages, but rather that he is seeking "an amount fair and reasonable under the premises of this mater." He also asks for a trial by jury. 

The National Transportation and Safety Board has not released its final report about the fatal crash. But it has said there were no distress calls made from the plane and the landing gear was not out at the time of the crash. 

There was no flight data recorder, commonly known as a black box, the NTSB said. Not having one is common on planes like the eight-passenger Piper Cheyenne that crashed.

As part of its investigation, the NTSB will assess the pilot's training, qualifications and medical certifications. It will look into the aircraft's maintenance history and the airframe. It also will assess if or how the weather affected the flight.

Dr. Jennifer Rodi
 Investigator In Charge and Senior Air Safety Investigator
  National Transportation Safety Board

Dr. Jennifer Rodi and  Bruce Landsberg 
Air Safety Investigators
National Transportation Safety Board

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration; Washington, District of Columbia
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Piper Aircraft; Phoenix, Arizona
Hartzell Propeller; Piqua, Ohio
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Pratt and Whitney Canada

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Accident Number: CEN20MA044
Date & Time: 12/28/2019, 0921 CST
Registration: N42CV
Aircraft: Piper PA 31T
Injuries: 5 Fatal, 2 Serious, 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Executive/Corporate 

On December 28, 2019, about 0921 central standard time, a Piper PA 31T airplane, N42CV, impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from the Lafayette Regional Airport/Paul Fournet Field (LFT), Lafayette, Louisiana. The commercial pilot and four passengers were fatally injured; one passenger sustained serious injuries. Two individuals inside a nearby building sustained minor injuries and one individual in a car sustained serious injuries. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postimpact fire. The airplane was owned by Cheyenne Partners LLC and was piloted by an employee of Global Data Systems. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the flight. The flight was originating at the time of the accident and was en route to the Dekalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK), Atlanta, Georgia.

The pilot contacted the LFT ground controller and requested a clearance to PDK. The controller issued the IFR clearance to the pilot with an initial heading of 240° and an altitude of 2,000 ft mean sea level (msl). The controller then instructed the pilot to taxi the airplane to runway 22L. As the airplane approached the holdshort line for the runway, the pilot advised that the airplane was ready for takeoff and the controller cleared the airplane to depart from runway 22L. After takeoff the pilot was given a frequency change and successfully established communications with the next air traffic controller. The pilot was instructed to climb the airplane to 10,000 ft and to turn right to a heading of 330°.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) data provided by the FAA identified and depicted the accident flight. The ADS-B data started at 09:20:05 as the airplane climbed through 150 ft. msl, or 110 ft. above ground level (agl). The peak altitude recorded was 925 ft msl, from about 09:20:37 to 09:20:40, after which, the airplane entered a continuous descent to the ground. The last ADS-B data point was at 09:20:59, as the airplane descended through 175 ft msl in a steep dive.

Preliminary analysis of this data indicates that after departing runway 22L, the airplane turned slightly to the right toward the assigned heading of 240° and climbed at a rate that varied between 1,000 and 1,900 feet per minute. At 09:20:13, the airplane started rolling back towards wings level. At 09:20:20, the airplane rolled through wings level in a continued roll towards the left. At this time, the airplane was tracking 232°, the altitude was 475 ft msl, and the speed accelerated through 165 kts. calibrated airspeed. The airplane continued to roll steadily to the left, at an average rate of about 2 degrees per second. At the peak altitude of 925 ft msl at 09:20:40, the roll angle was about 35° left, the track angle was about 200°, and the airspeed was about 172 knots. The airplane then started to descend while the left roll continued, and the airplane reached a roll angle of 70° left at 09:20:52, while it descended through 600 ft msl, between 2,000 and 3,000 feet per minute.

According to the FAA, as the airplane descended through 700 ft msl, a low altitude alert was issued by the air traffic controller to the pilot; the pilot did not respond. No mayday or emergency transmission was recorded from the accident airplane.

According to multiple witnesses on the ground, they first heard an airplane flying overhead, at a low altitude. Several witnesses stated that it sounded as if both engines were at a high rpm. Multiple witnesses observed the airplane appear out of the low cloud bank in a steep, left-bank turn. One witness stated that the airplane rolled wings level just before it struck the trees and transmission lines on the south edge of Verot School Road. The airplane then struck the road and continued across the United States Postal Service (USPS) parking lot. Two USPS employees received minor injuries from flying glass inside of the building. One individual was seriously injured after the airplane struck the car she was parked in. The car rolled several times before it came to rest inverted; a postimpact fire consumed the car.

The wreckage path included fragmented and burned pieces of the airplane and tree debris, and extended from the trees and transmission line, along an approximate bearing of 315°, for 789 ft. The right wing, the outboard left wing, both engines, both elevator controls, the rudder, the instrument panel, and forward cabin separated from the main fuselage and pieces were located in the debris field. The main wreckage consisted of the main fuselage and the inboard left wing.

Before the accident the Automated Surface Observing System at LFT reported at 0853, a wind from 120° at 5 knots, overcast clouds with a vertical visibility of 200 ft and ¾ statute mile ground visibility. The temperature was 19° C, the dew point was 19°C, and the altimeter was 29.97 inches of mercury.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N42CV
Model/Series: PA 31T
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Cheyenne Partners Llc
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KLFT, 42 ft msl
Observation Time: 0853 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C / 19°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , 120°
Lowest Ceiling: Indefinite (V V) / 200 ft agl
Visibility:  0.75 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.97 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Lafayette, LA (LFT)
Destination: Atlanta, GA (PDK)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 4 Fatal, 1 Serious
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Minor
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 5 Fatal, 2 Serious, 2 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 30.176111, -92.007500

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email 

Bruce Landsberg
 Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board
Media Briefing

Ian Edward Biggs
May 29, 1968 ~ December 28, 2019 (age 51)

Friends and family gathered Saturday to celebrate the life of Ian Biggs, the 51-year-old pilot who died last week in a crash along with four others just minutes after taking off from Lafayette Regional Airport.

Hundreds packed the Walters Funeral Home chapel — and along the hallway and in the lobby — to honor Biggs, hailed on social media and during the service as a hero who saved lives by avoiding populated areas when his crashing plane was coming down near a residential area and a shopping center.

"The lives lost were precious, families and friends will be devastated for a very long time," Pamela Stella Flyte wrote on Facebook. "But I believe the person Ian was led him to the path he chose making this tragic accident that much less devastating."

The service included a final salute ceremony from the Acadiana Veterans Honor Guard and several other veterans in attendance, honoring Biggs' service in the U.S. Army Reserves.

The Piper PA-31T Cheyenne II slid across a U.S. Post Office parking lot near Verot School Road and made a fiery stop in an adjacent field. 

Chuck Vincent, whose daughter-in-law and grandchild were killed in the crash, spoke about Biggs' love of his family, friends and his hobbies — hunting, fishing, camping and flying, among others. Several attendees of the service wore camouflage.

"He was truly a part of our family," said Vincent, who is founder and chairman of Global Data Systems, where Biggs worked for the last 20 years. 

Gretchen Vincent, the chairman's 51-year-old daughter-in-law, and her son Michael "Walker" Vincent, killed the day before his 16th birthday, were also killed in the crash. Friends and family mourned the mother and son at a joint funeral service Thursday.

Biggs was born in Franklin, Louisiana, on May 29, 1968 to Sharon and Donald Biggs. He graduated from Acadiana High School, and enlisted in the United States Army Reserves before marrying Shannon Webb in 1990. 

He worked in the oil industry for many years, before becoming employed as a pilot with Global Data Systems.

Known as "Country Rat" to friends and family, Biggs lived a life "full of adventure," his family noted in his obituary. "As an avid outdoorsman and true Southern boy, Ian enjoyed deer hunting, fishing, frogging, and making memories at the camp.

"His friends knew him as a jack-of-all-trades, he could fix just about anything and cook just about anything, too. His family will fondly remember him prancing around the kitchen in his robe while he cooked and listened to music. He'll also be remembered for his sand art skills he inherited from his parents."

Biggs is survived by his wife, Shannon Webb Biggs of Lafayette; two children, Madison and Ethan Biggs of Lafayette; his parents, the former Sharon Richard and Donald Lester Biggs of Lafayette; four sisters, Shadon Hannie (Edward) Shaleen Biggs Pellerin (Ben Huval), Shauna Price (Troy), and Shanette Cormier (Todd), all of Lafayette; and one brother, Donald Biggs II (Candace) of Clinton, La.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Richard and Mr. & Mrs. Basal Edward Biggs; his wife's grandparents, Emily "Mim" & Lannie Webb, and Martin & Aline Stutes; and several aunts and uncles.

Robert Vaughn Crisp, another Global Data Services executive killed in the crash, had a service Friday in Mamou.

Carley McCord, a well-known Louisiana sports reporter, had a funeral and burial service Saturday in Baton Rouge

Stephen "Wade" Berzas was transported to Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center after the plane headed for Atlanta crashed Saturday. He is recovering from injuries.

According to Dr. Joey Barrios, Chief of Medical Staff at Our Lady of Lourdes, Berzas arrived at the emergency room Saturday morning conscious, with burns on 75% of his body, and with a shoulder dislocation.

Original article can be found here ➤

Ian Edward Biggs
May 29, 1968 ~ December 28, 2019 (age 51)

Memorial services will be held Saturday, January 4, 2020 at 3:00 pm in the Sunrise Chapel at Walters Funeral Home for Ian Edward Biggs, 51, who passed away December 28, 2019. Dr. Rick Smith will conduct the services. Inurnment will follow in Calvary Cemetery.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Shannon Webb Biggs of Lafayette; two children, Madison and Ethan Biggs of Lafayette; his parents, the former Sharon Richard and Donald Lester Biggs of Lafayette; four sisters, Shadon Hannie (Edward) Shaleen Biggs Pellerin (Ben Huval), Shauna Price (Troy), and Shanette Cormier (Todd), all of Lafayette; one brother, Donald Biggs II (Candace) of Clinton, La.; his in-laws, Glenn and Madeline Webb; two godchildren, Regan Price and Kati LeBlanc; and numerous nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, and aunts and uncles.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Richard and Mr. & Mrs. Basal Edward Biggs; his wife's grandparents, Emily "Mim" & Lannie Webb, and Martin & Aline Stutes; and several aunts and uncles.

Ian was born in Franklin, Louisiana on May 29, 1968 to Sharon and Donald Biggs. He graduated from Acadiana High School, and enlisted in the United States Army Reserves before marrying his high school sweetheart, Shannon Webb, in 1990. 

He worked in the oil field industry for many years. Most recently he was employed as a corporate pilot with Global Data Systems.

Ian will be remembered for being the life of any party he attended. His piercing blue eyes and heartwarming smile captivated others and instantly drew people to him-- and that's when his fun-loving and infectious personality would make you his friend forever. 

Ian, a.k.a. "Country Rat", was a patriot. He loved his country, and loved watching episodes of "M.A.S.H.", Nascar, and "Naked and Afraid." His life was one full of adventure. As an avid outdoorsman and true Southern boy, Ian enjoyed deer hunting, fishing, frogging, and making memories at the camp. His friends knew him as a jack-of-all-trades, he could fix just about anything and cook just about anything, too. His family will fondly remember him prancing around the kitchen in his robe while he cooked and listened to music. He'll also be remembered for his sand art skills he inherited from his parents. 

Most importantly, Ian was a devoted and loving husband and father. He took good care of his family, physically, emotionally, and spiritually providing for their needs. Whether it was dancing in the kitchen or playing tug-of-war with Sammy the family pup; having family game night and staying up late to work on a jigsaw puzzle with his beautiful baby girl, or bonding with his son over "Forged in Fire," his joie de vivre was there for all to witness and enjoy. He lived his life out loud, and inspired others to do the same. His love for life was fierce, and he will be deeply missed.

Visiting hours will be observed Saturday from 9:00 am until time of service. A rosary will be led by Glynn Stutes and Harold Lee Stutes at 1:00 pm on Saturday afternoon.

The family requests that memorial contributions be made in Ian's name to the Wounded Warrior Project at

Sign the virtual register book and leave online condolences at

Walters Funeral Home, 2424 N. University Avenue, Lafayette, Louisiana 70507; 337.706.8941 is in charge of arrangements.


  1. The 31T was called a Cheyenne even though it was on a Navajo airframe. They had a number of variations the last one with a larger cabin with twin 750s.

  2. anon, all Cheyenne variants used the PT6 except the 400 which used Garrett TPE331s

  3. Very similar incident with same make and model in Elko,NV back on 11/18/2016.

  4. The Cheyenne II has a SAS ( stab augmentation system), essentially a stick pusher tied to an angle of attack vane. It was was needed to certify this version because of stability issues on take off and high angle of attack situations. Piper included a plastic Load plotter for the airplane, and you need to pay close attention to not load it so as to exceed 138 in rear CG.
    Piper recommends loading the front baggage compartment with some weight and to put the heavier passengers in the 2 aft facing seats (3+4). The witness saw the airplane pitching up and down like a roller coaster, thus it may have been a CG, loading issue. Also, with full fuel i think that model only has about 600 lb payload. heavy load, rear CG.....maybe triggered the Pusher after takeoff??

    1. I flew a Cheyenne II more than 6,000hrs. My useful load was 1,000 lbs with full fuel and 1400 with Nacells only full.

  5. It sounds like with both engines running pitching up and down that forward baggage compartment came open and was not properly secured . Pretty common in any Navajo and same disastrous results . I put Navajo , Chieftain, Cheyenne all in same category as all derivatives of same airframe . These airplanes will fly and climb at gross on one engine real well and when you get into turbine powered , wow ! May all these poor souls Rest In Peace . Terrible tragedy !

  6. Just curious ... Was Piper still using 'bob weights' on this model?

    RIP for those lost and recovery for those injured.

    Just bad news ...

  7. Six hundred mile one way trip. With a 1700 mile range in this plane, I wonder if they left Lafayette Regional with a full tank to cover the round trip? If so, then the scenario of limited payload with six passengers may be a possible crash explanation or at least one that contributes to the center of gravity theory.

  8. Very unlikely cg was an issue with just 6 on board - they were likely on a day trip and lightely loaded. SAS system doesnt come into play until you have 7th and 8th seat loaded

  9. News video of post office and grassy field behind it shows debris path runs parallel to Feu Follet Road. Direction of travel starts at post office customer parking and extends into the field. Feu Follet Road is 90 degrees to the original runway 22 flight path.

    The post office viewed using earth mapping is approximately 7500 feet from the end of runway 22. The post office is less than 1000 feet east of a straight line runway 22 projection.

  10. Apparently pilot was well qualified, but we should not rule out anything at this stage, including spatial disorientation. Hard IFR (VIS 3/4 SM) with fog and they would have entered clouds (VV002) almost immediately after lifting off.

  11. It is one of the dirty little secrets of our occupation that there are more than a few 'experienced commercial pilots' out there who cannot safely take off single-pilot in IMC.

    Re: the CG issues - I fly in a 135 single-pilot op. On a couple of occasions very heavy pax have ignored their seating assignments and seated themselves in a rear seat 'where they're more comfortable'. This is always followed by a very unfunny lecture from me about the potential consequences....

  12. The news article misinterpreted altitude from flight aware in the statement "the plane only achieved an altitude of around 375 feet before crashing".

    A look at flight aware track log shows four recorded points. Keep in mind that those are only snapshot reports due to the low sample rate (long period between recordings). The highest altitude reported is 850 feet not 375. Good airspeed and positive rates, then trouble coinciding with large negative rate and a heading of 110.

    1. (And yet), the direction of travel of the debris field from the Apt. complex, across the OH power lines, + impact point in the USPS parking lot, and subsequentpath into the field indicate what appears to be a heading of ±320° — on a "LH" turn from 220°(22L) = 260° turn... My 1st inclination merely from flight profile (not even factoring Clg./VV) had been C/G... Given the weather, spatial disorientation, + A/C specific SAS, + potential 'onboard atmosphere/mood, etc), all look to be potential contributing factors. Aren't these sorts of things typically the sum of numerous breakdowns, i.e. 'chain of unforseen adverse events, conditions, etc'...?

  13. I agree that part 91 allows takeoffs in 0 vis, but what pilot with any common sense takes off from an airport for which the conditions are at or below minimums, such that in the event of an emergency, they have little to no chance of returning to the airport from which they just departed. Also, the weather at the time was .75 mi vis and 200 ft VV. Not OVC, but VV which means no defined ceiling and complete obscuration, or in other words fog. Those conditions increase the chance of spatial disorientation as evidenced by several historical fatal accidents. I am not implying that the cause of the crash was weather, but it certainly implied poor decision making on the part of the pilot regarding the departure. And sadly, an hour later the conditions were 1000 ft ceilings and 10 mi vis.......

    1. All the pilot needed to do was wait about an hour or so when it became unrestricted and party cloudy , VMC. I live nearby and heard the crash. It was very foggy- not "cloudy". VV was 200ft maximun.. not a ceiling of clouds

  14. I truly appreciate the folks at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They do exhaustive work to piece together the causes of aviation disasters so that they can make safety recommendations, and hopefully similar catastrophic accidents won’t ever happen again.

  15. The NTSB Go Team arrived in Lafayette Saturday - late afternoon. Not too shabby for a holiday weekend for most folks.

  16. regarding a witness statement of pitch oscillation: From a google return from a 2006 aviation message board: "IIRC the Cheyenne II is the plane with the often cursed "stability augmentation system". This was a blatant attempt to meet the static stability requirements at the expense of controllability. AFaIK it's basically a AOA or airspeed sensor that drives a trim servo to produce an artificial tendency to stay on trim speed. The problem is that there is enough lag in the system that it can easily get behind the airplane and start putting pitch corrections in that are out of phase with the attitude."

  17. Definitely a precursor to MCAS, and with similar ideas on how to stretch an aircraft's stability margins.

    We do not know if it was the reason the accident happened, or even if it was operating, but if it was it might have been one factor in this terrible accident.

  18. B. Landsberg and J. Rodi = Special thanks for all your hard work. We are so thankful for all that you do! Great teamwork!

  19. Accident may be a simple case of altitude loss in IMC conditions due to spatial disorientation while hand flying a climbing turn for course heading change.

    The aircraft had airspeed well above stall throughout the flight period based on the four data points reported in flightaware track log and as indicated by the length of debris.

    The witness statements that the aircraft went from a steep left-bank turn to wings level passing over the apartments would be consistent with regaining visual reference after dropping below the cloud base of 200 feet that was reported. Sink rate makes full recovery without ground collision unlikely at such a low altitude.

    Analysis of recorded sound from security cameras may be one of few tools available. No data recorder; fire and impact damage limits the chance of recovering chip data from avionics; IMC conditions limit visual/video observation above the 200 feet cloud base. Not much to work from other than analysis of engine parts to determine power related indications.

  20. Another possibility is attitude indicator malfunction. Not much time to identify and correct with such a low ceiling. Busy time right after takeoff can delay noticing, cross checking, identifying failing instrument and transitioning to working backup.


  21. My theory is spatial disorientation. In my humble opinion there is an over reliance on automation in the cockpit and many times pilots are fiddle farting with the autopilot when they should be flying the plane. I think this could be one of those situations. Time and investigation will tell.

  22. With all do respect for the NTSB, I question the operational influence resulting from their very expensive investigative efforts on 14 CFR Part 91 operators.

    Fatal General Aviation Accidents in Furtherance of Business (1996–2015): Rates, Risk Factors, and Accident Causes
    "Results: The fatal accident rate for business operations was three-to six-fold lower than the rate for recreational flights with a decline evident between 1996 and 2015. However, a higher proportion of business-related accidents were fatal (33%) compared with recreational flight mishaps (22%). Business-related, fatal accidents were over-represented for operations of longer flight distance, non-daylight hours, and degraded visibility. The most frequent accident cause categories were a deficiency in pilot skills/experience/systems knowledge (45%) and violation of the federal aviation regulations (e.g. departure into instrument conditions without an instrument flight plan, flight into known/forecast icing) (26%). Conclusion: Despite the fatal accident rate declining for business-related missions, the proportion of fatal mishaps was higher than that for recreational flights.
    Practical application: Towards enhancing safety (a) flight reviews should discuss alternate flight planning to circumvent the hazards of night operations, adverse weather, and fatigue, (b) pilots should be encouraged to participate in additional training, e.g. the FAAST program, and (c) pilots should avail themselves of aviation training devices for maintaining instrument proficiency. "

  23. Here is a 2018 landing video into KLFT runway 4R that includes flyover view of the accident location, good perspective angle to understand the surroundings:

    The 786 time tag makes it play from the 13:06 time mark, showing post office at left side.

  24. A person on the ground report quoted in article: "I was right outside before the crash," said local resident Kevin Jackson. "I noticed (the plane) was low and smoking like hell."

    I know better than believe every article I read but if it was smoking and not producing power the props will tell the true story. This would explain the left hard turn and decent. Pilots inability to recover before ground impact will be cause if engine loss was a factor.

  25. I suspect they are going to find the aircraft was misfueled with av gas instead of jet A. Often happens with aircraft that come with both types of engines.

    1. PT6 most variants are certified to use 100LL for up to 150 hours before hot OH.

    2. I worked at this facility and worked on and fueled this airplane. I can promise you this plane was not misfueled, but the pilot was not super qualified as he did not have a ton of hours in type.

  26. Regarding smoke: NTSB briefing spoke of two witnesses on record and when asked about that early media account of smoke, stated: "We have received no direct statements from witnesses regarding smoke".

    Here is the question and answer from the briefing (time tag 452 makes it start where the question about smoke is asked);

    CBS published the name of the person they say gave them the info and you can bet NTSB will check to see if the person is real and whether what CBS reported can be verified. NTSB has also been given some videos, which may help clear up the question. If it was "smoking like hell" while flying, another witness would confirm it.

    Media often gets played (remember air crew Wi Tu Lo?) and media gets things mixed up sometimes. When a Cessna Skymaster crashed into a roof of a house in our town, the front page headline was "Airplane crashes tail first into house". They said that because in between the two tail booms sticking out of the roof you could see a propeller.

  27. A PT6 can run with a mix of Avgas and Jet Fuel.

  28. Ref "look to potential contributing factors."

    In the terminal and before anyone loads, a firm reminder to all that 'silence is golden' to allowed the PIC's complete attention to the moment at hand, as in prep the acft / flight for departure and departing safely.

    lifted from AOPA about the importance of a 'sterile cockpit'

    "In our single-pilot cockpits there is plenty to keep us occupied. Since we do not usually have cockpit doors to retreat behind in small aircraft, the pilot in command has to exercise some discipline. Passengers, despite good intentions, can be significant distractors. In our exuberance to fly, the discipline is sometimes forgotten. Takeoff and landing are obviously busy times but as we have seen from the above, distraction even during taxi can lead to major problems."

  29. There was a 421 that crashed in Hammond,La a few years ago, an illegal charter with an aircraft owner that was typical about maintenance, SHORT CUTS SHORT CUTS.Oh and the aircraft was from LFT. BB,MH,are 2 of the illegal charter masters. FAA are you paying attention? JD is the illegal charter kingpin in LFT right now. DO YOUR JOB!! investigate this activity

    1. Sheeeze . . . commenting about illegal charters. What is your axe to grind with these people you are trying to take down? Are you running a competitor ?

  30. Low vis and ceiling departures create a zero margin for error from any mistakes, problems or over sights during a already high workload.
    Any distraction from the task of flying during a single pilot low IFR departure can quickly lead to unstablized flight. A annunciator warning, a loud sound, or a impropery set flight director is all thats needed to cause problems when you imediately have to transition to instrument flight. Its all comes down to options and choices. When you choose to take off into a 200' overcast you have to live with just one viable option after leaving the runway and thats to do your best to keep flying regardless of what else occurs. By ADM multiple options through out a flight reduces risk. Departing with only one option for success by the FAA's own definition is not a good way to start a flight. More than likely had the weather been better we would not be here wondering what happened.

  31. It is not premature at this time or unfair to the pilot to point out the unwise decision of departing in those conditions. Takeoff and climb into IMC at 200 feet AGL would HAVE TO GO WELL, because you can't expect to complete an instrument return to the field if the plane acts up and conditions darn sure were not VFR-supportive for making an off-field emergency landing in a built-up area.

    Regardless of whether investigation determines that the accident was from spatial disorientation, aircraft performance shortfall, or something crazy like a drone coming through the windshield, it is already known that the plane recovered from a steep bank and got wings level after dropping out of IMC into VFR.

    It is not debatable that improved visibility and a higher ceiling would have helped in recovering from the emergency.

  32. Surprised the issue of misfueling a turbine aircraft with avgas hasn't been raised.

    1. Avgas question actually is already in the comments - Look up thread for 1:59 PM and 2:26 PM comments from 30 December.

    2. PT6 most variants will operate on 100LL avgas for up to 150 hours before hot section OH.

    3. Aircraft had its own hangar and own fuel farm. Who manages the fuel farm? Is it tested on a regular basis for contamination?

  33. I’ve seen some comments on the weather conditions. Meteorlogically speaking, there’s a difference between “VV002 and 200’ OVC. VV002 means vertical visibility, of 200 feet measured by a machine, as if you are looking straight up. There is no cloud base. The cloud is on the surface. Called Fog. 200’ Overcast is a definite cloud base at 200 feet. Horizontal visibility can and sometimes will be fairly good below that cloud base. Horizontal visibility on that morning was 3/4 of a mile due to that cloud on the surface, definition of Fog, and tells me he was in Fog and Clouds on the takeoff roll all the way back to the ground.

  34. Regardless of the reason for entering the descending spiral turn reported by witnesses in this case, recovery without ground impact may have succeeded if there had been addition height available below the cloud base.

    Spatial disorientation is not just a simple error like forgetting to lower landing gear. Lack of visual reference in IMC flight is especially dangerous because perception generated from inner ear signals alone won't match the instrument displays.

    This presents the brain with conflicting information while the lack of visual reference makes recognition of the true aircraft attitude and proper correction difficult. Frequent practice in IMC is required in order to overcome perception conflicts (not "hood time" spent in VFR conditions or in simulators).

    At the beginning of a low rate turn such as a heading change, the fluid in the inner ear is initially displaced and the turn start is properly perceived. Once the turn is established, the fluid re-centers and the sensation of turning goes away. A common result of the inner ear contribution to spatial disorientation is a descending and steepening spiral turn.

    Passengers need to understand that risk from single pilot operation in minimum allowed IMC conditions under Part 91 can be much higher than from commercial flight operations. Refusal to board for Part 91 departure when commercial operations are grounded for WX minimums should be the norm.

    Good read on spatial disorientation here:

    1. Inner ear contribution to spatial disorientation explained here:

      Videos explaining, Part 1 here:
      And Part 2 here:

    2. This. The plane seemed to clear into a space where some control may have been regained. I understand get-there-itis and I guess they were racing to get to an event of sorts in that delaying an hour would have meant being late but reason with this, make it there an hour late or make it your early grave, which would you prefer?

      As others noted here including a person that lives close to the airport, not to mention looking at same-day photos, even some with smoldering wreckage still taking place, it cleared up an hour or so later. What's an hour in what can be a long, eventful in its own right, life of a person vs. sudden death? VFR beats a DNR.

      An aside, the lawsuit update only makes me more sad, as if money is going to bring them back? It's a soulless cash grab in this case and only drags out the pain and suffering of all involved which, the soulless lawyers I'm sure who urged it, probably had any number of these ambulance chasers calling the bereaved before names were released, looking for their 33%-50% cut in the payout, should be ashamed of themselves.

  35. “It is one of the dirty little secrets of our occupation that there are more than a few 'experienced commercial pilots' out there who cannot safely take off single-pilot in IMC.”

    Unfortunately this has been my experience also.

    “In my humble opinion there is an over reliance on automation in the cockpit and many times pilots are fiddle farting with the autopilot when they should be flying the plane. I think this could be one of those situations.”

    Initially I thought that this was a stupid comment but it is half correct, UNFAMILIARITY accompanied by an over reliance on automation is dangerous. A well trained pilot operating a highly automated aircraft is a safe combination indeed. The airline safety record bares this out.

  36. With regard to the SAS system, it is not a stick shaker. The problem that Piper ran into with the Cheyenne II was that with high power and high angles of attack the pitch control is very sensitive, so that there is very little pressure on the yoke as the pilot pitches further up, which does not meet FAA standards and makes it easy for a pilot to over control and stall. What the SAS system does is measure angle of attack with SAS vane which then signals an electric motor in the back to increase tension on the pitch control cable. It is true that Piper was pushed to develop the SAS in part because they wanted the CG envelope to allow an 8th seat all the way in back in the baggage area, but the system will activate no matter what the CG is, it is operated by angle of attack. Having a rearward CG only aggravates the pitch instability problem. After Piper certified the Cheyenne II (originally just called Cheyenne, but later called the II when the I came out) they came out with the Cheyenne I which did away with the SAS by limiting the rear CG and decreasing the power (500 hp vs 620hp). I know this because I owned a '79 Cheyenne II and I flew it some with the SAS inactivated to see how the system worked. In a go around with full power and the SAS off, I could see why the SAS was needed, there was almost no feedback on the yoke when pitching up above say 10 degrees and it would have been very easy to over control and stall. It is possible that the SAS system was not working correctly or perhaps inop on this airplane, and perhaps that explained the eyewitness account of the pitch of the plane appearing unstable. But there are other explanations and not enough information to say too much about this sad accident.

  37. Regarding SAS and MCAS = Two entirely different systems. One designed to stabilize an inherently unstable aircraft under certain situations (SAS), and the other designed to help an inherently stable aircraft handle like a smaller version of the same aircraft (MCAS), for the purpose of a common certification to fly the aircraft type. The MCAS was not needed to certify the aircraft, just to allow 737 pilots to fly it without a new type rating. Both arguably failed their intended design.

  38. We, as pilots, are always under scrutiny and should review accidents like this with the intent of bettering our personal skills.

    Condolences to the families involved.

  39. Tail Feathers
    'Tail feathers' was a commonly used term for reference to the stabilizers among pilots during my youth as a hangar rat in the late 60's and early 70's. They also called Duct Tape '100-mile-an-hour Tape' since that was all it could take when used to repair 'birds with torn fabric!

    1. I have referred to elevators, stabilators, horizontal stabs, vertical stabs, rudders and ruddervators individually and in various appropriate groups as 'Tail Feathers'. I know other pilots and mechanics and Federal Aviation Administration investigators that have done as well ... It's just a casual reference.

  40. “It is one of the dirty little secrets of our occupation that there are more than a few 'experienced commercial pilots' out there who cannot safely take off single-pilot in IMC.”

    While I agree, I don't really think of it as a dirty little secret. Everything we do in the US in regards to training, checking, currency and such is to a minimum standard. Most pilots wether experienced or inexperienced, commercial or private are happy with the minimum standards. I have run into a few that thing our minimum standards are excessive. While I have run into a few pilots over the years that want more than the minimum (I am one of them because I need it), it is usually the insurance companies that require more than the minimum.

    1. Replying to my on post ... It was a few years ago ... I was giving a guy a Flight Review and we were doing the 'ground' portion in the flying clubs lobby. One of the members started hovering nearby just listening to the material that we were covering ... material beyond that required by the FAA minimum standard. I got a call from him a week or so later ... he liked what he was hearing, needed a Flight Review, and wanted to do it with me. After he found out what I usually required (about 2 hours ground, usually up to 2 hours flight for someone who flys on a fairly regular basis, and complete a couple of online AOPA/FASTeam videos/programs) he lost all interest in doing a flight review with me. If the FAA says you only need 1 and 1 that should be it. Most pilots fail to see the parts where the FAA encourages instructors to go beyond the minimum.

    2. Minimum is not the same a minimal. There has to be a minimum standard.

  41. Spatial disorientation is one possible cause. There is the possibility
    of a failure of the attitude indicator also. A slow failure of the
    attitude indicator would be difficult to detect and act on immediately
    after takeoff. I'm interested to see if the panel had been upgraded or
    if it still had original type attitude indicator. Also what type of
    backup attitude indicator did it have, if any, other than the copilot's
    attitude indicator. If the primary attitude indicator was the "old"
    style with a gyro, then the NTSB will attempt to look at the gyro to see
    if damage to the gyro was consistent with rotation at time of impact (if
    fire did not destroy that evidence).

    There is also the possibility of some type of medical incapacitation of
    the pilot, either partial or complete. An autopsy will attempt to
    determine that.

    It should be noted that it is not unusual for a properly trained and
    proficient commercial pilot to take off in 3/4 mile visibility. Charter
    companies are typically allowed to take off single pilot with visibility
    as low as 1800 feet in a multi-engine airplane depending on the airport.
    With two pilots, operations specifications allow takeoff with visibility
    as low as 500 feet in an aircraft like this depending on airport
    conditions and crew. A takeoff alternate airport would be required if
    the visibility is lower than the landing minimums at the airport.  This
    does require training and checking on a regular basis. I'm sure the NTSB
    will look closely at training records and recent experience.

    1. The video above suggested that the plane had been updated with some type of 'glass' for the PFD. I would certainly want another source of attitude info close by ... not cross cockpit.

      Departing roughly south bound at that time of day I would guess the sun .... Through the clouds .... Would be about 45' or so above horizon to the left.

      When I have been IMC in that situation my brain always tells me that the sun should be straight ahead or up ... Presents a real challenge to fight this and trust/use the instruments.

      In this situation my brain would be wanting to turn left and maybe let the nose drop a bit to put the sun where my brain thinks it should be.

      Tough situation ... fight the brain, trust the instruments and fly the plane.

      Not suggesting at all that this is what happened but trying to imagine myself in the situation and estimate what I might have been dealing with.


    2. Thanks. Looking at the video, it appears that it was equipped with
      perhaps a Garmin G500 or G600 which is an excellent display. I would be
      interested to know if that system has any type of memory that will
      reveal it's condition, notably was there a failure of the Attitude
      Heading Reference System (AHRS) or any sensors. If there was a failure
      of the AHRS the pilot would have to recognize that and revert to the
      backup attitude indicator. Under some configurations and conditions a
      failure of the AHRS will automatically disconnect the autopilot. Even if
      this has no relevance to this crash, it is a good reminder for pilots to
      crosscheck the standby attitude and be prepared for a primary attitude
      failure especially during low visibility takeoffs.

  42. Preliminary report indicates Pilot had radio comm interaction with two controllers after takeoff, which included being given altitude target and turn heading to apply. The left turn of the accident was not part of the plan:

    "After takeoff the pilot was given a frequency change and successfully established communications with the next air traffic controller. The pilot was instructed to climb the airplane to 10,000 ft and to turn right to a heading of 330°."

    Pilot workload included the first controller communicating the frequency change, pilot switching radio frequency and establishing communications with the next air traffic controller, including acknowledgement and data entry to set the altitude target and turn heading per controller instructions.

    Total time airborne was about 60 seconds. No way to know so far if the workload distracted from hand flying or an error was made changing autopilot settings or there was a performance problem (power/servo/instrument, etc.).

    Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. One pilot climbing in fog doing all three, including finger poking selection changes for radio and autopilot. Can't expect to do that and achieve the safety record of two pilot cockpits.

    1. "Aviate, navigate, communicate." is applicable to 99.99% of flying, but that 0.01% is where it gets interesting. We, as pilots, have a high number of external stresses and distractions. Many of us will have distractions from the primary task.

      Aviate navigate communicate is in the heart of every aviator.

    2. ... Or should be. There are a few out there that haven't figured it out. Not saying that it applies in this case ... we don't know.

  43. Textbook graveyard spiral with a last second snap correction once he got below the clouds but too late. Might have been structural failure at that point.
    From personal experience a steam gage attitude indicator is very small and the 2 degrees drift described wouldn't even register on it or barely. One generally has to cross check with the directional gyro to make small inputs to maintain the attitude. This is a perishable skill too. This is why glass cockpits are so much better and hand flying by steam gages should be the absolute last thing to do not a primary way to fly in IMC. Just like partial panel.
    A working autopilot is a must on those older aircrafts.
    I bet 90% this is exactly what the final report will say. Pilot shouldn't have been nice and said no to flying in such conditions.

    1. Seems like there will always be SD accidents from pilots who "get by" in occasional IMC by relying on that working autopilot to do the flying. They don't hand fly enough IMC to recognize and ignore the conflicting inner ear inputs, so if the autopilot can't fly the plane for them, there is no "plan B".

      But those same pilots still think they could hand fly IMC if they had to. Sometimes they tell the ATC that "the instruments are wrong" before they crash. Matters not if they are distrusting glass panel or steam instruments, older or newer plane, that graveyard spiral looks and feels the same either way.


    1. Two injured in deadly Lafayette plane crash continue making progress

  45. I was a training captain at a small cargo airline flying 402s years back... one of the new pilots called me one night and told me that all the gyro instruments failed in IMC. Both horizons were laying on their sides, HSIs spinning around crazily... I told him that he almost killed himself and he needed to pay attention, quit, or die. He straightened up and was hand flying to 1800 RVR next month... I was a proud daddy.

    1. OMG. How did he survive? Got out of IMC and realized he was in a spiral?

    2. That story makes sense if you parse "called me one night" + "were laying on their sides" + "he straightened up" as meaning there was a cell phone call while it was happening and he got the new pilot out of trouble. As long as the "years back" is not before cell phones.

  46. Survivor from the plane is doing well and has been discharged from the hospital (17 Feb). Story and photos:

    Also have 19 Feb status on the person who was ground-injured (see the Gofundme page):

  47. Hard to say what happened here, so won't speculate. Referring to an earlier comment about workload on climb out in IMC; I can think of two occasions when I told a controller to "standby, flying the airplane right now." They completely understood the situation and I was complying within 15-20 seconds. Aviate first, always. Controllers can wait.

    1. Not hard to say at all. Spatial disorientation.

  48. “climbed at a rate that varied between 1,000 and 1,900 feet per minute”

    Isn’t 1900 ft / min way too much VSI in these IMC conditions?
    Why not climb out at 500 ft min until you get some altitude?
    The ol’ steady as she goes scenario

  49. About an or or so later, the weather was really nice. I live near the crash site. VV was about 200 reported.. it wasn't a cloud based ceiling it was all fog. Once the fog cleared (before 1100), it was partly cloudy and unr vsby. The pilot should have waited a bit