14 Minutes

A few days ago a female Japanese pilot took off in a Cessna 152 from a Florida airport and didn’t come back.  She apparently had over 400 hours and an instrument rating and was renting the plane in order to build time to get an airline job back in Japan.  Unfortunately her having 400 hours and instrument rating weren’t enough to keep her out of trouble when she decided to take off into poor, terrible really, weather conditions.  And to make matters worse she did it at night.  I don’t know the exact sequence of events but it sounds like she encountered low clouds and visibility while flying VFR and got herself lost.  She did manage to contact air traffic control who tried their best to help her but she ended up losing control and spinning into to water just offshore.  Inadvertent flight into IFR conditions has killed hundreds if not thousands of pilots over the years and will continue to do so because pilots are stubborn morons who have big problem admitting that they’ve screwed up and JUST TURN AROUND! Guys, it’s not that hard, if you fly into weather that is worse than you expected, low clouds, poor visibility, icing, thunderstorms, whatever, turn around immediately!, go someplace else, land, re-group, and live to fly another day.  But no, you keep going, hoping it will get better until it’s too late.  I’m currently teaching both my son and daughter how to fly, a job that doesn’t stop when they get a license, and trying to teach them how to make the decision to call it quits and chicken out is the hardest lesson to get through their thick heads.  Mostly because they’ve grown up hearing my stories about how I pushed the limits and got away with it.  do as I say not as I do kids.  I had a buddy that tried to fly his skydiving plane through a line of thunderstorms to go and visit his mother.  I helped him check the weather and told him not to try it but he went anyway.  Halfway there the clouds closed in on him and he managed to set the plane down on a road in the middle of nowhere.  It was a very close thing and he told me that it happened so fast you wouldn’t believe it.  When I pushed him for more details he admitted that he had pushed it when the clouds started forcing him lower and lower but that he thought he could make it.  Classic example of what I’m trying to teach my kids.  I’ve included a link to the voice recording of the accident that you can listen to or not it’s up to you but it’s scary knowing that from her first call to the time that ATC lost contact with her is just 14 minutes.  The FAA estimates that a VFR pilot that encounters IFR conditions will usually last only 178 seconds before losing control.  I guess her IFR rating gave her a little more time but you would think it should have saved her life.


From about the 6th minute to the 12th minute of this recording is pretty hard to listen to… she is becoming more and more scared..

4 Replies to “14 Minutes”

  1. My first instructor spent half of each year as a missionary pilot in Central America. He beat into my head that you first, last, and always fly the airplane. His instrument training was needle, ball, airspeed and altimeter (old 1939 Piper J-4). It served me well in the years I was an active pilot. Get the wings level, nose up, power on, and then figure out what is going on. Even if you hit the ground, a controlled crash is a survivable crash.

    1. You got that right. Fly the airplane FIRST! Everything else is secondary. I’m sure this woman overwhelmed and scared to death and just let her scan go.

  2. That works with most aircraft. If you get into a spin just let go of the yoke and the plane will fly itself out of trouble, maybe, it depends on the plane. Doesn’t work when you lose control at 600 feet though.

  3. Climbing into cloud is one of my greatest fears as a glider pilot without a cloud flying rating. Since most of the club gliders do not have a serviceable t/s and/or artificial horizon. However the saving grace is that the majority of gliders with air brakes/spoilers level the aircraft if you let go of the stick and stick you in a fast-rate decent nice and level. I’ve tried it before (not in cloud) just to test what my instructor said and it works! However the amount of people that are un-aware of this life-saving fact is staggering..

    Safe flying.

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