The pilot of a light plane that crashed into a forested cliff face shrouded in clouds and mist wasn’t certified to fly in the poor weather conditions and didn’t heed another pilot’s advice to drive instead of fly across eastern Arizona’s high country on a vacation trip to Colorado, federal officials said Thursday.
Scottsdale attorney Eric Falbe, his wife and his two daughters from a previous marriage were killed in the Jan. 2, 2017 crash that the National Transportation Safety Board final report says was probably caused by Falbe’s “improper decisions to begin and continue” the flight under the poor weather conditions.
The report said Falbe wasn’t rated to fly under instrument flight procedures, which the report said were warranted by weather conditions around Payson near where the single-engine plane crashed.
Records indicated that Falbe didn’t receive a weather briefing before the flight and that also he didn’t look at several sources of weather imagery before departing from the Scottsdale airport, the report said.
In addition, a pilot who co-owned the plane with Falbe, looked at Falbe’s planned route and weather information at Falbe’s request two days before the flight and advised against making it.
The other pilot told Falbe that the day of the flight and the day before “were not options and suggested the pilot drive to Telluride,” the report stated. “The co-owner, who was an instrument rated pilot, stated he would not have personally flown this route because of the weather forecast.”
The report did not identify the other pilot.
The report did not cite any mechanical problems with the plane and said the crash occurred after a gradual descent.
“The orientation and length of the wreckage path were consistent with a controlled flight into terrain impact,” the report stated.
Falbe, 44, was a lawyer who specialized in real estate mediation. His wife, Carrie, 31, and daughters Victoria, 14, and Skylar, 12, also were killed.
A search was launched after a relative contacted Scottsdale police and a cellphone signal was detected near Payson, 62 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix.
Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd after the crash that it took nearly an hour for searchers to reach the site in rugged terrain.
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