National Transportation Safety Board investigators say a lack of training and a decision to fly into poor weather were the probable causes of a July 2012 airplane crash that killed an Australian couple.
Investigators say 64-year-old Stephen Knight was piloting a Piper PA-32R-301 “Saratoga” with his wife, 60 year-old Gillian Knight, when the rented plane crashed about 43 miles north of Fairbanks.
A report issued by the NTSB this month found that Knight’s aircraft was flying with two other planes on a sightseeing tour. Poor weather forced Knight’s and another plane to make an unscheduled landing. After refueling and getting update weather information, Knight and the other pilot departed for their original destination.
The report reconstructs the final moments of Knight’s flight, where he again encountered poor weather. Losing visual contact with the runway, Knight requested an instrument clearance from air traffic control, despite the report stating he was “a non-instrument-rated pilot.”
Knight ascended to about 7,000 feet before losing contact with controllers. The report cites “the pilot's lack of an instrument rating” as leading to the pilot becoming “disoriented” in poor weather.
Examination of the wrecking led investigators to conclude Knight likely “lost control of the airplane and entered a steep spiraling dive from which he was unable to recover.”
NTSB records show the Piper PA-32R-301 model aircraft has been involved with four crashes in Alaska since 1983 in Wainright, Barrow, and Emmonak. All three prior crashes were non-fatal.