Cessna Pilot Remains At Fault In Crash That Killed 82
Even with the NTSB declining to overturn its findings in a
1967 midair crash of a Piedmont Boeing 727 and a Cessna 310 near
Hendersonville, NC, amateur historian Paul Houle, who has studied
the crash for years, isn't giving up.
Houle will lobby Congress to keep the case alive, reports the
Charlotte Observer, asserting the NTSB didn't conduct a new
investigation -- instead only reviewing its old notes. That, he
claims, is only "reigniting controversy" over the crash.
As ANN reported, Houle
believes that the NTSB wrongly determined the Cessna pilots were at
fault. Houle, who is not connected to any of the victims, lobbied
the NTSB to reopen the case in 2005, which it agreed to do last
But in a February 2 letter to Houle, the NTSB said the agency is
standing by its original report.
Following a 14-month investigation, the NTSB originally ruled
the accident was likely caused by the C310's pilot. The NTSB ruled
that he had deviated from his IFR flight plan and into the path of
the speeding jet.
However, Houle found evidence that it was the 727 that strayed
from its cleared route - and that the flight crew was distracted by
an ashtray fire on the flight deck seconds before impact.
Houle also discovered the NTSB's lead investigator on the case
was the brother of a Piedmont vice president -- both of whom have
since passed away.
Despite the NTSB's general policy of accepting requests to
reopen cases only from "parties to the investigation or hearing" or
those with a "direct interest," the board's acting chairman, Mark
V. Rosenker, agreed to Houle's request.
According to the NTSB, the accident occurred because the Cessna
flew off course and into the Piedmont jet's path.
But Houle contends the Cessna pilot was confused, and told
air traffic controllers where he was going. Houle believes the
pilot should have been corrected.
The NTSB said it couldn't determine whether the Cessna pilot had
told the control tower of his incorrect heading because the tape
was garbled. It also deemed the fire inconsequential, because the
crew was laughing about it.
Additionally, the NTSB said that numerous NTSB officials worked
on the report, and that it found no evidence that the family
relationship impacted the case.
US Airways, which bought Piedmont, lobbied the NTSB not to
reopen the case.