Pilot error blamed in crash at St. Augustine airport that killed 2, NTSB says

Two years after a fiery plane crash at Northeast Florida Regional Airport near St. Augustine killed two people, investigators have revealed what went wrong.

The crash killed a flight instructor and a student pilot prospect.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its final report on what happened and according to the report, pilot error caused the crash.

According to the NTSB, a Cessna 152 was on approach to runway 13 when the aircraft went into a stall and crashed. News4JAX aviation expert Ed Booth said NTSB investigators determined the crash was not caused by a mechanical failure.

“This appears to be a classic case of loss of control in an airplane that has nothing wrong with it and was perfectly flyable,” Booth said.

A witness told investigators the nose of the plane was pitched upward but suddenly, the aircraft pitched down before crashing. Booth said that means the plane was traveling too slow when its angle of attack was so vertical that the aircraft went into a stall. To make matters worse, the stall happened just 100 feet above the ground.

“If he would have it he had 500 to 1,000 feet above the ground, he would have had time and the altitude to affect a safe recovery,” Booth said.

Booth said the pilot should have recognized three warnings that would have likely alerted the pilot that the plane was about to stall.

“Number one is the airspeed indicator. In this particular airplane, you don’t want to see an airspeed of less than 45 or 50 miles per hour,” he said.

Second, a horn will come on when the plane is about 10 miles per hour above stall speed. It’s a warning to let the pilot know the plane is not generating adequate lift to stay airborne.

“And then you are trained to sense a stall by the way the airplane feels. An airplane makes certain noises. It vibrates. There’s buffeting that occurs before an airplane stalls,” Booth said.

Booth is a pilot who occasionally flies into Northeast Regional Airport. He said because the burn marks from this 2021 crash are still visible on the runway, one can’t help but think about the people who died in the crash.

“You think about how it happened, why it happened, and what could have been done to prevent it.”

The pilot was a flight instructor for the Florida Flier Flight Academy.

News4JAX reached out to the school for a statement but it did not immediately respond.

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