Suit Filed In Mountain Crash

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Family members of passengers killed in the 2016 crash of a Cessna 182 in Tennessee are claiming controllers should have warned the non-instrument-rated pilot he was about to hit a mountain in IMC. Pilot David Starling, his eight-year-old son Hunter and the pilot’s girlfriend Kim Smith died when the Skylane hit the cloud-shrouded 6,500-foot mountain at the 5,400-foot level. WKOV reported the suits, filed by the mother of the child and Smith’s son, claimed the “approach controller never warned the pilot that he was at an obvious risk of colliding with the mountain.”

The NTSB report said the pilot was cleared to begin his descent from 9,500 feet to his destination airport but was instructed to maintain VFR. Instead, he descended through a cloud layer at 7,000 feet and was still in cloud when the plane hit the mountain. The report cited the pilot’s “anti-authority attitude,” noting his medical certificate had expired and the plane was overdue for an inspection. The NTSB interviewed a flight instructor who said the pilot frequently flew in IMC even though he wasn’t rated. In its response to the suit, the government said the crash was the result of “the negligent acts and omissions of the pilot.”