By Nathan A. Ferguson
The NTSB has blamed Scott Crossfield's death on his own failure to obtain updated en route weather information, and on air traffic controllers for not giving him adverse weather avoidance assistance.
The former civilian test pilot took off in his Cessna 210A on April 19, 2006, from Prattville/Grouby Field Airport in Prattville, Ala., and was en route to Manassas, Va., on an IFR flight plan. Crossfield encountered severe embedded thunderstorms and received a clearance to deviate, but it was too late. The airplane disappeared from radar 30 seconds after he initiated the turn. The wreckage was found in the mountains near Ludville, Georgia.
In its final accident report released on Sept. 27, NTSB investigators said that Crossfield, 84, had received several weather briefings leading up to the crash. Before departing, he discussed the weather with an acquaintance and mentioned that he "might need to work his way around some weather, but it did not look serious."
The airplane was equipped with a Stormscope and an IFR GPS receiver. The GPS, however, was not configured to display satellite weather.
The NTSB pointed out that while ATC's primary responsibility is the separation of traffic, controllers need to use good judgment when it comes to safety. Investigators found no radar limitations or workload issues that should have prevented weather information from being conveyed to Crossfield. At the same time, Crossfield didn't ask for weather advisories either.
"Scott Crossfield was one of the most talented pilots ever to touch the controls of an airplane, and his loss is especially poignant because it was so avoidable," said Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. "Had either party, pilot or controller, simply spoken up about the situation, there's a very good chance he'd be with us today."
The Air Safety Foundation has a handy interactive course, Weather Wise: Thunderstorms and ATC, to help pilots avoid these weather encounters and better utilize ATC. The foundation has also created a version for controllers.
Crossfield was a noted test pilot who in 1953 was the first person to fly faster than twice the speed of sound.
September 27, 2007