Flying Blind: Weather Reports Paint A Gloomy Picture At End Of Doomed Flight

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 29, 2011 Updated Jun 29, 2011 at 5:48 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Difficult -- even for an experienced pilot.

Fort Wayne Dr. Steve Hatch, an experienced pilot, was behind the controls of a doomed flight in menacing flying conditions at the time of last Friday's deadly crash in Michigan.

We spoke with the National Weather Service office in Gaylord Michigan about cloud conditions around Charlevoix when the plane crashed into a garage.

Here's what we learned.

Conditions got worse as Hatch flew further north, and the cloud ceiling at the end of the flight was dangerously low.

At 6:34 p.m. in Charlevoix, visibility was 1 3/4 miles, with a cloud ceiling of 1,300 feet, manageable for an experienced pilot.

At 7:14, the visibility stayed the same, but the cloud ceiling was down to 700 feet.

At 7:35, at the time of the crash, the cloud ceiling was barely 200 feet.

Dr. Hatch was in “soup”, trying to land at a small airfield.

Pat White, a Fort Wayne radio talk show host, who flew for the Air Force and Air Guard for 25 years, says Hatch was up against it.

"He had a ceiling of 200 feet. He’s shooting an approach into that small facility, without sophisticated landing equipment, with the minimums being 500 feet and one-mile visibility. A 200 foot cloud ceiling, that's way too low, he couldn't do it," says White.

The fact Hatch attempted the landing in such miserable conditions, may indicate he was in some sort of trouble, struggling with engine problems or running out of fuel.

A National Transportation Safety Board crash report with preliminary findings is supposed to be released within a few days.

Dr. Hatch and his wife Kim died in the accident.

Their son Austin remains hospitalized in Traverse City in a medically induced coma.




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