March 27, 2009 - Report: Pilot in Crash Wasn't Certified to Fly in Bad Weather

The pilot of a NASCAR race-bound plane that crashed into a lake near Carrollton this month was not certified to fly in the low-visibility weather conditions that prevailed, a preliminary investigative report says.

Pilot Brian Kearney, 51; his wife, commercial real estate attorney Christa Kearney, 45; and passenger Timothy Dean Miller, 40, all were killed when the Cessna 182 plunged into the lake while flying from Cobb County to a NASCAR event in Hampton. The National Transportation Safety Board said "instrument meteorological conditions prevailed" at the time of the crash but Kearney did not have an instrument rating with his pilot's license. Instrument conditions mean visibility is too low for pilots to rely on visual references alone and must use the plane's instruments to maintain safe flight.

According to the NTSB report, a witness near the accident site described the weather conditions at the time of the accident as "low cloud cover" with fog drifting across the surface of the lake. Another witness stated that conditions were "very foggy." The Newnan-Coweta County Airport, 26 miles southeast of the accident site, reported quarter-mile visibility, with clouds at 300 feet on the morning of March 8 when the crash occurred. The agency's preliminary report mentioned no findings of mechanical problems before the 8:45 a.m. crash.

The plane had been operated for about 65 hours since its last annual inspection on July 12, 2008. Kearney had 114 total flight hours as of Feb. 1, 2008, when he last applied for a pilot's certificate, the NTSB said.

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