Adrien James Valentine, Florida pilot of single engine propeller Cherokee Piper 180 plane asks air traffic control to tell parents he loves them before fatal crash after having taken off from Kissimmee Gateway Airport amid bad weather and crashing as he sought to fly to Gainesville.
A flight he should have aborted. A doomed 21-year-old pilot was reported to have asked Florida air traffic control to tell his parents that he loved them moments before crashing his single engine private plane and dying.
Area pilots described hearing the victim pleading for help over his radio minutes before the plane went down in Paynes Prairie State Park.
‘I don’t think I can hold my altitude without descending,‘ the young man flying a single-engine Cherokee Piper 180 amid poor visibility told air traffic control according to audio obtained by WUFT.
‘I’m losing altitude,’
‘How many miles am I from Gainesville?’ the 21 year old who had bought the faltering aircraft just two weeks earlier, pleaded moments before crashing in a state park, Tuesday afternoon.
‘I’m losing altitude,’ the pilot told the air traffic controller before asking them to pass on the message that he loved his parents before crashing.
The young pilot killed was not formally identified in an initial Federal Aviation Administration report.
However, the doomed plane had been bought just two weeks earlier by Adrien James Valentine, 21, of Melrose, Florida, according to WUFT, who said the young man’s dad hung up the phone when asked about the tragedy.
The small propeller driven plane, took off from Kissimmee Gateway Airport about 12:45 p.m. and flew about 100 files north toward Gainesville. At about 1:25 p.m., the pilot flew very low – below 1,000 feet – before climbing again to about 3,000 feet and veering west about 15 minutes later, WUFT reported.
Ill equiped navigation instrument for bad weather?
At about 2 p.m., the plane took a series of sharp turns in rapid succession in heavily overcast weather, climbed as high as 6,800 feet and crashed about 300 mph, according to the plane’s radar track. Visibility was about one mile, according to audio tapes of Gainesville air traffic controllers around the time the plane went missing.
Kissimmee airport manager Ramon Senorans told the outlet that the plane took off under visual flight rules, or VFR, meaning pilots are required to remain clear of clouds and maintain a minimum of 1,000 feet above ground level.
The pilot was reportedly warned that his destination airport was under instrument flight rules, IFR, meaning flying by visual references is unsafe and must be conducted using navigation instruments.
Moments before takeoff, the controller encouraged him to wait because it appeared that conditions were improving.
‘It looks like it’s updating now to be not IFR, showing a few (clouds) at 800 (feet),’ the controller said. ‘So, if you stand by a minute or two we’ll be VFR.’
Crash under investigation
The pilot took off about three minutes later, according to the outlet.
But after encountering poor visibility later, he ended up crashing into the ground at about 300 mph. Rescuers found the wreckage just before sunset Tuesday night according to a Facebook release by the Alachua County Sheriff.
The plane’s maximum speed is listed by its manufacturer at 142 mph, suggesting the plane dove straight toward the ground in its final moments. The plane can carry up to four people, including the pilot.
Piper Cherokees are a popular model of private planes for flight training, air taxi and personal use, with low-mounted wings and fixed, tricycle landing gear.
On Wednesday, the FAA said in a preliminary report only that the plane, whose pilot it did not identify, crashed due to ‘unknown circumstances.’
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are investigating the accident.