Associated Press, Published December 27 2012
Pilot in Minnesota crash wasn't trained for low cloudsMINNEAPOLIS — The pilot of a plane that broke up in mid-air and crashed in central Minnesota in March wasn't equipped or trained to fly in low clouds, federal investigators have concluded.
Pilot Stuart Dahlberg, 52, of Brooklyn Center, his wife, Ivelisse Morillo Dahlberg, 36, and his mother, Mae Dahlberg, 76, of St. Cloud, and three pet dogs died when his single-engine plane went down in a farm field near Glencoe, about 50 miles west of Minneapolis. They were flying from the suburban Crystal Airport to Craig, Colo., to watch a high school play directed by Stuart Dahlberg's sister.
A National Transportation Safety Board report this month said the 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza did not have the instruments necessary to fly without normal visibility and that the Stuart Dahlberg was not certified to fly by instruments when he flew into low clouds and lost control of the plane, which broke up before crashing, the Star Tribune reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/Tkoqlw ). The fiery crash left a 900-foot-long swath of debris across two fields.
The debris included pieces of wing, fuselage and control cables, all torn and broken in ways consistent with “overstress failure” and “tension overload,” the NTSB report said.
Many crashes result from pilots getting “spatial disorientation” in bad weather and putting too great a strain on the plane while trying to control it, according to the Air Safety Institute, a division of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Pilots stuck in such situations “often fall prey to the so-called ‘graveyard spiral’ — a descending turn that only gets tighter and steeper as the pilot pulls back on the yoke in a misguided attempt to stop the descent,” according to a bulletin for pilots published by the institute.
“A panicked pilot lost in the soup can push an aircraft literally to the breaking point,” the bulletin said, adding that low clouds should be studiously avoided by pilots who aren't equipped and rated to fly by instruments.
High-profile threats like thunderstorms, icing, high winds and turbulence don't kill nearly as many pilots as simple clouds, the bulletin said.
Weather observations at the Glencoe Municipal Airport, about five miles south of the crash site, indicated that it was overcast and misting with a cloud ceiling of 900 feet about the time of the crash, the NTSB report said.
Investigators also indicated that Dahlberg was less than fully prepared for the cross-country flight.
“The pilot did not request weather information for his route of flight, nor did he file a flight plan,” the NTSB said.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com
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