NTSB's final report cites pilot error as cause of plane crash - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

NTSB's final report cites pilot error as cause of Superstition Mountains plane crash

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PHOENIX -

The images are hard to forget.  Six people, including three children, were killed when their plane crashed into the side of the Superstition Mountains.  

On Wednesday, the NTSB issued their final report on the crash.

On a perfectly clear Thanksgiving Eve two years ago, the east valley sky was pierced by a blinding light.

Six minutes after takeoff from Mesa's Falcon Field, the plane flew straight and level right into the Superstitions.

Karen Perry lost her three children: Logan, 8; Luke, 6 and Morgan, 9.  They were seen on a video minutes before the crash, waiting for the plane and their father Shawn, to fly them to Safford for the holiday.

The NTSB says the pilot, Russell Hardy, simply lost track of where he was.  On a moonless night, he never saw the mountain coming.  It's called "controlled flight into terrain."

The pilot's "complacency" and "lack of situational awareness" resulted in the loss of six lives.

"What was actually going on in the cockpit that night on that flight we will never know unfortunately, but we do know the pilot, for some unknown reason.. he lost situational awareness.. just not aware of the mountain as far as we could tell," explained NTSB crash investigator Michael Huhn.

Also, the plane was not equipped with a terrain avoidance system.  That would have warned the pilot of the mountain ahead.

"That's the real crime here.  Most of these accidents are preventable," said Huhn.

The report does mention an internal FAA memo obtained exclusively by FOX 10 last year.  In it, three FAA investigators said private pilots were not getting adequate help from air traffic controllers to avoid mountainous terrain.

The memo also warned that the airspace in the area of the crash is "insufficient" and that future accidents could happen if it's not fixed.

The NTSB report looked into the claims of air traffic controllers denying help for pilots and could not prove or disprove the claim.

The report did delve into the issue of airspace design, but former air traffic controller Mike Pearson is weighing in.

Does he think there's an airspace issue out there?

"I think unless they change the floor of the airspace and glide path, this could happen again," he replied.

I spoke to Karen Perry, the mother of the three children killed.  Because she is suing the FAA over the crash, she cannot comment on the report.  But on a personal note, two years after the terrible tragedy, she's doing about as well as can be expected.

Read the full report: www.ntsb.gov/AviationQuery/brief.aspx?ev_id=20111124X85300&key=1

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