An air traffic controller friend of mine once summed up pretty much every aviation accident in one sentence:
"They ran out of altitude, airspeed, and ideas all at the same time."
So how does something like this happen?
Flying around mountains can be pretty treacherous for obvious reasons.
You can't see them when clouds obscure them.
There's generally a lack of flat ground to make an emergency landing.
On a hot day the density altitude may be such that no matter what a pilot does, his airplane may not be able to clear the top of a mountain.
I also am reasonably sure that no mountain ever moved so an airplane wouldn't hit it.
From eyewitness reports visibility was not affected by clouds.
An eyewitness also stated the airplane didn't seem to be in any distress.
The pilot was not in contact with the FAA air traffic controllers. Had they been in distress, given their location, the pilot surely would have attempted to make contact.
Most small aircraft are not equipped with Cockpit Voice recorders or Flight Data recorders (the so called "Black Boxes"). They don't carry them because they are not required to. Recording equipment is rather heavy and very expensive. Without any of that data, the National Transportation Safety Board will have to guess as to what the probable cause was. I doubt they'll be able to obtain any post mortem tests on the pilot due to the violence of the crash and the post impact fire.
There's a phenomena in aviation called "Controlled Flight Into Terrain" (CFIT). Simply put, it's where the pilot loses his/her situational awareness and accidentally/unknowingly flies a perfectly good airplane into the ground. In this case, into the side of a mountain.
It's not limited to small airplanes, either. In February, 1990 a perfectly good Airbus Industries A-320 airliner crashed short of the runway at the Bangalore Airport killing 92 out of 146 passengers and crew.
Before that, in late December, 1972, an Eastern Airlines crew got distracted by a possible landing gear problem and crashed in the Everglades.
I've got a feeling that the pilot of the Rockwell AC69 probably just got a little distracted and didn't realize he was below a safe operating altitude. There are any number of things that could have distracted the poor soul.
Could have been a conversation.
Could have been something with one or all of the three children on board.
Heck, it could have been the relaxing nature of flying at night.
We'll never really know.
From the pictures of the accident scene, if it was a mechanical problem, we'll probably never know that either.
What we do know is that it wasn't the first time something like this has happened.
Sadly, it won't be the last.
Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.
Air Traffic Mike, ret.
I Know DKDC
3 days ago