John F. Kennedy Jr. turned down an offer by one of his flying instructors to accompany him the night of his fatal flight to Martha’s Vineyard, saying he “wanted to do it alone,” federal investigators say.
In its final report on the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said the instructor who offered to go with him was not “comfortable” with having Kennedy alone at the controls that evening, given the route and the weather conditions.
Kennedy’s single-engine Piper Saratoga crashed as he was flying with his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, from Fairfield, N.J., just outside New York City, to Martha’s Vineyard on July 16, 1999. All three died.
Disorientation Caused Crash
The NTSB concluded the probable cause of JFK Jr.’s fatal plane crash was “failure to maintain control of the airplane” due to spatial disorientation of the pilot.
Haze and the darkness of the night were also cited as factors. Nothing was found to be wrong with Kennedy’s plane.
The NTSB report, released Thursday, also noted that Kennedy had limited experience with night flight. He had logged 310 hours as a pilot, but needed additional training in flying by instruments, the report said.
ABCNEWS aviation consultant John Nance told Good Morning America that spatial disorientation can happen to even the most experienced pilots.
“It’s the inability of our head to be able to tell us, if we don’t have visual cues, whether of not we are right-side up. And it’s something that can affect any pilot,” Nance said. “Most of us have gotten by with it. John Kennedy didn’t.”
Tensions Between Family, NTSB
The probe into the crash caused friction between Kennedy’s uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, and NTSB Chairman James Hall, according to a published report on June 24.
Quoting unnamed sources, the Boston Globe said the difficulties became so pronounced that the White House asked a go-between to mediate.
The sources said the Kennedy family felt the NTSB didn’t keep them up to date on the search and investigation.
They said the Massachusetts senator’s office was frustrated that the media often got information before the family did.