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Pilot says plane crash was preventable

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The wreckage of a Piper PA 46-350P sits at the scene where it crashed on June 7 in Nash County.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The tragedy of the last fatal flight of the Piper PA 46-350P aircraft that was discovered earlier this month in Nash County could have been prevented, an aviation expert said after reviewing the preliminary report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Robert Katz, who has 37 years’ experience as a commercial pilot and 30 years’ experience as a certified flight instructor, said neither the private pilot nor one of his passengers who also was certified as a private pilot had the necessary credentials and experience to fly the plane in the weather situation they encountered.

Four people and two dogs were killed in the crash that occurred on June 7. After two wings of the Piper aircraft were found near two homes on Harrison Road, local law enforcement and emergency personnel launched an hours-long search and recovered the plane and remains of the crew and passengers on board in a wooded area about 1.4 miles from where the wings had been discovered.

“This type of tragedy happens almost every day in the United States,” Katz said. “And public safety is put at risk when people fly irresponsibly. Those wings could have landed on a person or a house and the rescue effort and search could have been hazardous to first responders at the scene.”

Gregory Boll, 57, and his wife Evva Leigh Boll, 48, died in the crash, leaving five children behind. The youngest of those children just graduated from middle school, according to news reports out of Naples, Fla., where the couple lived and where the flight originated.

Felix Laquidara, 53, and his wife Roberta Laquidara, 52, also died in the crash. They leave two children behind.

The aircraft reportedly belonged to Gregory Boll, who has been identified as the pilot on that fatal day as the plane headed to Easton, Md. According to information provided in the NTSB preliminary report, his pilot logbook revealed that “he had logged about 312 hours total flight time, including 147 hours in the accident airplane. His latest flight review was recorded on October 3, 2017.”

One of the passengers, Felix Laquidara, also had a pilot’s license and did have an instrument rating. His pilot logbook revealed that “he had logged about 1,062 hours total flight time, including 173 hours in the accident airplane. His most recent flight review was recorded on April 14, 2017. He had not logged any actual instrument time or instrument approaches during the 12 months prior to the accident,” the NTSB report noted.

Katz said that instrument-rated pilots have to fly using instruments at least once every six months to keep credentials current.

“Neither one of these guys was qualified to fly that airplane in those weather conditions. An Instrument Rating is required to fly any airplane above 18,000 feet and an Instrument Rating is only usable if the pilot maintains currency with recent experience,” Katz said during a recent interview.

In laymen’s terms, the aircraft was flying at roughly 27,000 feet when it broke apart as the result of a storm. The NTSB review of the preliminary air traffic control radar and voice communication information from the Federal Aviation Administration revealed the final moments of the flight.

“About two minutes prior to the accident, the pilot reported that they were entering an area of rain. The airplane was then observed climbing to FL273, followed by a rapidly descending right turn and loss of radio and radar contact. The controller made numerous attempts to contact the pilot, to no avail,” the report said.

Katz said the aircraft would have been experiencing major turbulence during the storm. He speculates that the pilot may have set the plane on autopilot and was not watching the radar to see what weather was ahead. By the time the plane got caught up in the turbulence, it may have been too late to correct the situation, Katz said.

“There would have been absolute terror on that plane,” Katz said. “It would be like riding a roller coaster in all directions at the same time.”

Fortunately, the passengers and crew likely were unaware of the crash, Katz said.

“When the wings tore off at the root, the cabin would have depressurized. The people and animals on board would have lost consciousness and likely died before they hit the ground,” Katz said.

Though Katz feels for the victims of the crash and especially for the family members they left behind, he feels it is important for details to be reported in situations like this.

“Some pilots feel an arrogant sense of entitlement when they fly a plane and don’t think the rules apply to them,” Katz said. “This crash was absolutely preventable. I think the details provided in the NTSB report reveal this because the preliminary reports rarely have this level of detail.

“I think this indicates that the NTSB appreciates how horrific and preventable this accident was,” Katz said.

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