Crash report released

Published 12:38 am Sunday, August 12, 2007

NATCHEZ — A “probable cause” report released July 25 confirms earlier reports that the Waco, Texas, plane crash that killed three locals stalled, and that the pilot had drugs in his system.

According to the report, it appears pilot Justin Cardneaux lost control of the twin-engine Cessna 310 and stalled. Weather conditions were drizzly, and visibility was relatively poor, according to the report.

Cardneaux was flying Barr Brown and Jerry Roberts to a business meeting when the plane crashed and caught fire.

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Also, toxicological report results were “consistent with recent use of marijuana, phetermine (a prescription stimulant) and promethazine (A prescription antihistamine),” according to the National Transportation Safety Board report.

Knowing the pilot’s condition, a Mississippi flight expert said he would never have stepped foot on the plane.

Flying with those drugs in his system would definitely have contributed to the crash, Thomas Sledge, chair of the commercial aviation department at Delta State University said.

“He was (reportedly) on a little of everything,” Sledge said. “Any one of those things would have gotten him grounded.”

Pilots are not allowed to fly while taking virtually any medications at all, he said.

“The only medication a pilot should be taking (while they’re) flying is aspirin,” he said. “That’s it. No over the counter medicines, no nothing.”

The drugs in the man’s system could have had any number of effects on a pilot, Sledge said.

“It gives you vertigo, it affects your judgment and it can affect your vision,” he said.

The probable cause report says because the pilot failed to maintain sufficient airspeed, the plane stalled and crashed. The pilot’s impairment because of the drugs was a factor, as well, the report says.

“Factors associated with the accident are an inadvertent stall, a low ceiling, dark night and the pilot’s lack of currency in instrument flight rules,” the report says.

According to the factual report, Cardneaux had not put in the practice hours required to fly using only electronic instruments.

The weather conditions — overcast and misty — shouldn’t have been a big problem, a seasoned pilot said.

Oliver Harrison flew the same model plane — a twin-engine Cessna 310 — for 10 years.

The weather did require landing relying on electronic instruments, according to the report.

“I’ve flown approaches like that quite often,” he said. “But you have to realize that (operating on instruments) takes a special alertness. You can’t just slop through it. It’s called a precision approach. You have to keep the airplane in line. You have zero margin for error. He didn’t have any wiggle room. Everything had to go just right.”

The factual and probable cause reports are available at

The factual report was released several months prior to the probable report.

The NTSB factual report said the throttle was in the full-forward position.

The throttle’s position meant the pilot was giving the plane full power, Harrison said.

The control knobs for the auxiliary fuel tanks were in the “off” position, according to the report.

The auxiliary tanks are usually used while cruising as a fuel reserve, Harrison said.

“When you switch to the aux tanks, fuel from that tank is pumped to the engine,” he said. “What the engine doesn’t use, it circulates back to the tip (main) tank. The aux tanks will go down within an hour or so, depending on the size of the tank.”

The auxiliary tanks shouldn’t be used during takeoff and landing because fuel from those tanks won’t reach the engines at an angle, Harrison said.

“It’s possible if you have a low amount of fuel in the wing tank, the line going to the engine would not get any fuel and would just have air coming in,” Harrison said. “The engine would just quit.”

Harrison said he could not say what happened at the time by reading the report, only what might have happened.

“This is just speculation, but if he forgot to switch to the main tank and left it on auxiliary until the final descent and then realized he had to switch, he might have inadvertently turned (the knob) to the off position instead of to the main engines,” he said.

Because all the controls were at full throttle, it looked like the pilot was trying to get full power, when normally, a pilot would descend on only partial power, Harrison said.

The weather conditions — overcast and misty — shouldn’t have been a big problem, Harrison said.