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tv   Why Planes Crash  MSNBC  September 3, 2016 1:00am-2:01am PDT

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small planes in big trouble. >> all of a sudden, an enormous explosion and the whole building shook. >> nobody, but nobody penetrates a thunderstorm. >> a single-engine cessna goes head to head with a powerful storm. is a 7-year-old girl at the controls? jfk jr. loses his way and crashes into the ocean. >> you're pulling back on that control stick. you're thinking you're correcting the descent but you're really making it worse. >> and a yankees pitcher slams into a manhattan skyscraper. >> what the heck is this guy doing? performing maneuvers like this so close -- boom! that's it. >> dramatic animation show what can happen when small planes
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encounter big problems. >> when you're trying to fight mother nature, you better be very well prepared or bad things are going to happen. for general aviation pilots everywhere, clear skies and an open runway mean another chance to take flight. >> flying small airplanes is one of the greatest freedoms that there is. it's an experience to be able to see the sunsets, the sunrises, the clouds. it is a freedom that is known to few, and i'm lucky to be one of them. >> but with freedom comes the
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risk of danger, severe weather, poor visibility and mechanical issues can all test a pilot's skill. >> general aviation pilots, they are nonprofessional pilots. they are flying for recreational purposes. they don't necessarily have the same level of operational discipline as an airline pilot. so there's a lot of room for error. >> the vast majority of light aircraft flights land safely without incident. but when things do go wrong, a split second decision can mean the difference between life and death. july 16th, 1999. it's a mild quiet evening in fairfield, new jersey at the essex county airport known to locals as caldwell. private pilot john f. kennedy jr. is planning to fly to massachusetts with his wife, caroline bissett kennedy and her sister, lauren bissett. the plan is to drop lauren off in martha's vineyard and then continue on to the kennedy compound in hyannisport on cape
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cod. >> he was going up the east coast up to martha's vineyard and was going to turn and go out to the island. this would be a normal route. >> he taxis his six-seat single-engine piper saratoga onto the runway. at 8:38 p.m. he takes off. >> the last atc facility he talked to was caldwell tower. after that, no one was in communication with jfk jr. >> it's the last anyone will ever hear from him. 63 minutes later, john f. kennedy jr.'s piper saratoga disappears over the dark waters of the atlantic ocean. >> we continue now with our top story this morning, the search for john f. kennedy jr. >> when word of the crash reaches the public, the national transportation safety board is tasked with figuring out what happened. they talk to the person they believe was the last to see jfk jr. alive.
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the night of the crash, private pilot kyle bailey was at caldwell airport, planning his own trip to martha's vineyard, when he saw kennedy pull in. >> i would say maybe around 7:00 p.m. or so, he went to a pay phone, made a call from there and basically looked like any pilot planning a night flight. >> but john f. kennedy jr. wasn't just any pilot. he was one of america's most famous faces and most scrutinized celebrities. local businessman and recreational pilot munir hussein remembers him as a regular presence at the airport. >> first time i met john i exactly knew who he is. i read about his dad, i read about kennedy. i was very excited. and i was shocked really how nice he was, how down to earth he was. >> by the summer of 1999 kennedy had a few hundred hours more
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than the minimum 35 hours of flight time needed to get a pilot's license. he was also still training to fly using instruments only. but he was more than capable of flying his cessna 182 solo. >> i felt he was a very good pilot and he wants to grow. >> when hussein decided to upgrade to a twin-engine aircraft, john seized the opportunity to buy his new acquaintance's piper saratoga. >> saratoga was really a very good step for him. but one thing i really told him, i said this plane is much more advanced than the plane you are flying. it's faster. so make sure you really have a proper training and don't start flying solo until you have your instrument pilot. he was just a private pilot. >> but kennedy doesn't follow his friend's advice. investigators learn that on the night of the accident, kennedy was flying without an instructor, and into deteriorating weather.
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>> conditions as the day was progressing didn't look too promising up in the martha's vineyard area. very what is called marginal vfr conditions. >> vfr is visual flight rules. it's typically good weather where you can see other traffic, you can see obstacles and it's up to you visually to fly and not have a problem with any of those things. >> in marginal conditions private pilots who are not trained to navigate using the aircraft's instruments for guidance are still permitted to fly but they need to proceed with extra caution, as they can end up in clouds, fog or thick haze that they are not prepared to handle. as a noninstrument rated pilot himself, this has kyle bailey worried. >> one thing i noticed up in that area, some of those dew point and temperatures were getting closer together. when the temperature and dew point get close together it mean that fog is in the process of forming. that's why i chose not to fly
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himself. >> kyle cancels his flight. but kennedy does not. >> he had already committed to it. he was already running late. so he was racing the clock. he was trying to fly out to a wedding. so, he had a lot of self-induced pressure. >> when he takes off on the night of july 16th, there is no instrument-rated instructor on board and john f. kennedy jr. is on his own. >> he was the pilot command and the sole pilot on board. >> according to radar data tracking the transponder signal emanating from the plane, initially his flight appears to go smoothly. >> he was flying a particular heading and the altitudes were very steady. >> then 34 miles west of martha's vineyard, he begins to descend. >> the initial part of that radar data shows that the aircraft was descending at a nominal rate, 600 feet a minute, and a controlled air speed of 160 knots. >> but then something changes.
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at 2,200 feet above sea level he starts a right turn and climbs back up to 2,500 feet. he stays there for a minute and then begins to descend again. this time, the descent is not controlled. the aircraft drops at more than 4,000 feet per minute. >> the final change of vertical speed to 4,000 feet per minute, the airplane got into an out-of-control situation from which he could not remedy. >> the radar signal cuts out at 1100 feet. the saratoga is lost. coming up -- >> losing the horizon, it basically is like leaping off the edge of the earth in a complete sea of darkness. and later -- >> i was looking south and it was a beautiful view. and all of a sudden, an enormous explosion.
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july 17th, 1999. it takes less than six hours after john f. kennedy jr.'s takeoff from caldwell airport in fairfield, new jersey for word to spread that his piper saratoga has failed to arrive at the intended destination, the island of martha's vineyard. >> i woke up the following morning, was going to do the same flight to martha's vineyard. i called for my weather briefing. and there was a recorded message saying missing aircraft alert with a tail number. i knew it was jfk's tail number. my first gut instinct is it's 6:00 a.m. now, when the sun comes up, if that airplane isn't found, he's probably unfortunately gone. >> i was praying, i hoped he landed somewhere, i hope he's safe somewhere. but inside i knew that something bad happened. >> three days later these fears are confirmed when a u.s. navy salvage team finds the wreckage
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of the saratoga piper in the water seven miles from martha's vineyard. john f. kennedy jr., his young bride, carolyn bessette and her sister lauren bissett are confirmed dead. >> i was in shock. we all lost a great friend as a pilot and i think a great human being. i was very difficult for me. >> to try to understand what happened, investigators closely examined the aircraft's radar data. they discover that after beginning a controlled descent, kennedy suddenly starts a series of maneuvers, then drops into a steep dive, leading to impact with the water. could this sudden descent have been caused by some kind of engine failure? according to munir hussein, that would be highly unlikely. >> when i knew i was selling that plane to john jr. i really
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make sure i did all the inspection before i give it to him. that plane was almost a brand-new plane and was in very good condition. so i knew it's not the plane, it's a pilot error. >> investigators come to the same conclusion. after the wreckage of the saratoga is salvaged and carefully examined, it's clear the plane was fully functional prior to impact. this suggests to investigators that as the pilot in command kennedy made one or more fatal errors the night of the crash, the first of which appears to be his decision to fly his new airplane solo. >> now he's dealing with a little faster plane, a little more powerful.
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little faster plane, a little more powerful. so it means he's going to be moving toward things a little faster so he has to be thinking a little faster. >> on a clear day, this may not have been an issue. but kennedy was flying his route to martha's vineyard in a summer haze over the open ocean at night. >> i don't think he recognized the piloting skill demands that were going to come up when he turned away from the lights of the east coast. >> once out over the dark ocean with his long distance visibility reduced by the hazy conditions, kennedy couldn't orient himself in space. in other words, he lost the horizon. >> the best way to describe losing the horizon, it basically is like leaping off the edge of the earth in a complete sea of darkness. there's no way to differentiate whether you're turning, whether you're straight, whether you're climbing, whether you're descending without sole reference to your instruments.
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>> instrument pilots know how to scan the instruments and get the information necessary to keep the airplane wings level and navigate all of this. >> but kennedy had not completed this training. instead, he relies on misleading cues from his body to determine the plane's position in the air rather than the true instrument readings, a phenomenon known as spatial disorientation. >> believe me, if i put you in the cockpit and ask you to close your eyes and then i would turn left or right a couple times and ask you which side i'm turning, you have no clue what the plane is doing. >> it's a dangerous situation. looking at the radar data, investigators see what they believe to be clear signs of kennedy's spatial disorientation moments after his first controlled descent. >> the airplane makes a turn. now the question is did he disengage the auto pilot and try to hand fly the airplane which then required him to try to maintain an altitude, a heading
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and an air speed not using any visual cues outside the airplane. >> what happens next seems to suggest this is the case. once in the turn, kennedy begins climbing back up to 2,500 feet on a southeasterly track. he stays there for a minute with no visual reference points to guide him. >> the lights of the east coast, they're behind him. it's very dark. there was not a lot to see outside. >> he tries to descend again, this time turning left, back to the east. he stays in this turn for no more than 30 seconds, then suddenly turns to the right again. the erratic maneuvers are clues that something is terribly wrong. >> the latter part of the radar data, the airplane pitches up, levels off, begins another descent and changes headings is indicative that he finally lost his situational awareness, lost his orientation in space. >> this is when kennedy begins
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to spiral out of control. the effects would have been felt immediately. >> he was most likely hearing the rush of air over the wings and around the fuselage of the plane. it's getting very loud. you're experiencing a lot of gs. it's probably every passenger's worse nightmare. >> once the process starts, it gets very uncomfortable very quickly, and the airplane comes down very quickly. >> the question remains, how did kennedy's spatial disorientation cause this dive? >> i think a graveyard spiral would be one of the possible conditions. >> in this scenario, moments before his final turn at 2,000 above sea level, kennedy would be thinking that his aircraft is flying level, when it is actually nose down in a descending turn. >> when you're pulling back on that control stick and you're
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thinking you're correcting the descent but you're really tightening the spiral, making it worse. >> and the airplane just literally spins down in an ever decreasing, ever tightening turn as the pilot is fighting the airplane. >> and it's very hard to overcome. and if you don't have the experience, you'll find yourself in a position that will be detrimental. he could not execute corrective actions before the airplane struck the water. >> almost a year after the accident, the ntsb completes its investigation and confirms that the probable cause of the accident was the pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane during descent over water at night which was the result of spatial disorientation. factors in the accident were haze and the dark night. the findings are a sad epilogue to a preventable tragedy. >> the day that happened, if
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really i knew that he was flying himself, i would not let him fly. either i would pick him up, drop him wherever he wants. i would not let him fly alone. >> and that's the tragedy. is that this was an accident that should never have happened. coming up -- >> when i heard the boom i thought my life was over. i wasn't sure if the building was going to come down or go sideways.
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october 11, 2006, 2:40 p.m., new york's bustling upper east side. high atop the bel air, a 50-story luxury high-rise apartment building, real estate donna olshan is taking in the view from the penthouse while she waits for clients to arrive. >> the tall buildings are spectacular. some of them have views that go on for miles and miles. i had a contract out on a beautiful penthouse apartment.
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i went up to the apartment in the afternoon and i got there and the clients had not shown up and they were a little late. >> several stories below, elevator operator george serani is on duty, running a co-worker up to the 41st floor. >> it was a pretty nice day. a clear day outside. i was running the elevator at the time. i dropped a co-worker upstairs. and i was on the way down with the elevator to the lobby. >> across the street building manager kevin keys is in the middle of his day, working with a contractor to do some upkeep on one of the apartments in his complex. >> my buildings are five-story walk-ups and located across the street from the bel-air. we're surrounded by big buildings. it's a very busy block. >> for residents and passersby on the upper east side, it's business as usual until something shatters the routine. >> i was looking south and you could see the river and the city and it was a beautiful view.
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and all of a sudden, an enormous explosion. and the whole building shook. >> it startled us. it was a very loud bang, a big explosion. we ran to the window and saw a ball of flames falling down. >> when i heard the boom i thought my life was over. i wasn't sure if the building was going to come down or what was going to happen. >> it was a big ball of fire. i didn't really see anything. i couldn't tell what it was. seeing the debris fall down, we ran to the front of the building and we ran down the stairs as fast as we could. >> almost immediately emergency responders are dispatched. but for donna olshan, it's still unclear what has happened. >> i thought, oh, boy, something is really wrong. there's tremendous sirens. there's a lot of activity outside. but i wasn't sure what it was. you're in new york. you've lived through 9/11, you think is there a bomb, is there something wrong in the area. i knew it had to be something in the building and i was really
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concerned. >> when the elevator came to the lobby, my doors in my elevator opened and we couldn't see outside. it was all black smoke. it was literally like day had turned to night. >> driving on the bridge just across the east river, filmmaker and recreational pilot henry nemark knows exactly what was happening. >> i was entering the bridge from the manhattan side when i noticed an airplane and it was maneuvering. and that looked very unusual. i thought, what the heck is this guy doing, performing maneuvers like this. and then i saw the fireball. it was a fireball. i knew exactly what happened. the plane hit the building. >> at 2:42 p.m., a four-seat single engine cirrus sr-20 hurtles into the 40th floor of the bel air, showering 72nd street in flaming debris and setting fire to the building.
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>> we ran out, we saw a wing on fire by the driveway. i ran down and grabbed the fire extinguisher and put out a piece of the wing on my side of the building and actually ran inside and grabbed my camcorder. >> up in the penthouse, approximately ten stories above the fire, donna olshan still doesn't know what happened but is starting to realize it's serious. >> i knew i had to get out of there very, very quickly. i figured i had minutes. i am going down the fire stairs and within one or two flights, the smoke is coming up. i'm thinking this is an unbelievable way to go. coming up -- >> it was a huge shock to me when it happened. i'm a huge yankee fan. when i realized it was a player, my heart went out to the yankee family. and later -- >> the plane is in trouble. something's wrong. something's not right.
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october 11th, 2006. new york city mobilizes a rapid response to a fire in the bel air condominiums moments after a single engine cirrus sr-20 slams into the 40th floor of the building. >> it was very dark smoke.
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the whole building was black from the explosion. >> inside realtor donna olshan races down the fire stairs, desperate to get out of the flaming high-rise as smoke begins to fill the stairwell. >> you could feel it in your lungs and you feel the smoke coming in and start to burn. >> olshan continues down, pushing past the smoke, making it out of the building and onto the street. finally she begins to get an idea of what has happened. >> as i was running up the street, i heard some doorman talking to somebody about it. i realized that i was maybe 60 feet above where the plane hit. if that plane had gone any which way differently, i could have been killed. >> witnesses, residents and the press struggle to make sense of the chaotic scene.
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>> it takes two hours for firefighters to extinguish the blaze. amazingly, no bystanders are killed. but the occupant of the apartment where the plane crashed is seriously injured. >> there are, you know, flaming pieces of airplane, falling debris, pieces of engine, things like that. the fact that there were not a lot of casualties at ground level, remarkable. >> for the occupants of the aircraft, however, the crash is fatal. several hours after the accident officials release the names of the two men killed on board. they are flight instructor tyler stanger and famed new york yankees pitcher cory lytle. >> i'm a huge yankee fan and when i realized it was a player, my heart went out to the yankee family and, of course, to the victim's family. >> the public is eager to find out what happened. while investigators on scene begin to comb through the remains of the plane, others get to work digging into lytle and stanger's flying history.
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>> cory lytle was a relatively inexperienced pilot. he only hay couple hours of flight time. >> lytle had received his private pilot's certificate in february 2006 and had purchased the cirrus sr-20 in june. previous instructors describe him as a very competent pilot trained supervision of stanger, a licensed pilot and certified flight instructor, also from california. >> between the two of them, they were both qualified and current pilots. they didn't have a lot of experience in the operation of the airplane over the east river. >> and this air space is some of the most complex in the country. the island of manhattan is bordered by two major rivers -- the hudson on the west side and
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the east river. these two rivers converge at the bottom of manhattan, near the statue of liberty. for general aviation pilots flying vfr, or visual flight rules, these rivers are also key pathways through the heavily regulated class b air space that surrounds the city. >> class b air space is one of the most controlled types of air space in the u.s. it requires radio contact with air traffic control. it requires specific equipment on board. there is an area in the class b air space in new york that allows a visual corridor around the river for helicopters and small airplanes to be able to fly visually. >> the vfr corridor is literally over the top of the river. if you stray outside of that vfr corridor, you start to get into air space that is controlled by various facilities, whether it's laguardia, whether it's newark, whether it's jfk.
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>> investigators learn that on the day of the crash lytle and stanger departed from teterboro airport in new jersey and were planning to fly to california, but decided to take a quick detour along this corridor. >> they had gone out and flown around the statue of liberty. as a sightseeing visit. they were going to come back down the east river and depart the area. >> while most of the east river is part of the vfr corridor, there is a point just north of roosevelt island where the corridor ends and the landing approach for laguardia airport begins. unless lidle and stanger were willing to radio laguardia to get clearance to enter this class b air space, they would have to turn around. >> well, if you're just sightseeing, you don't want to have to do that. so they tried to make a u-turn and come back down the river. >> investigators believe this is where they began to have problems. according to the plane's
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transponder data, just north of roosevelt island in the middle of the east river, the plane starts a fairly sharp 40 to 45-degree left turn. on any other day this may have been sufficient to turn them around while keeping them safely over the river. but they make a critical oversight. >> the wind was blowing in significant velocity that day and the effect that's going to have, it's going to move them downwind during the turn. >> unfortunately they didn't factor in the crosswind. and because it's a narrow area, 1300 to 1500 feet, when they came out of the u-turn, there were areas of high buildings. >> investigators believe once the pilots realized they were drifting toward the build, they tried to increase the bank angle and tighten the turn to steer themselves back over the river. instead, what this does is cause the plane to descend. >> the steeper the bank angle, the faster the turn.
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but it requires a little planning, adjustments of trim so you don't have the airplane descending. >> their options started to run out the further into the turn they got. >> now dropping straight towards the bel air, investigators believe the pilots try to aggressively pull up to gain altitude and avoid the building. but it's too little, too late. >> he was in such trouble at that point. there was no way that he could have done anything. >> the frantic maneuver puts the plane into an aerodynamic stall. it loses lift and the aircraft careens into the 40th floor of a high-rise and bursts into flames. do it as a special effect in a movie. big fireball, orangey billowing flame followed by black. >> there was no evidence that there was any kind of mechanical malfunction or failure or problem with the flight controls
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that would have prevented either pilot from being able to control the airplane. >> the crash is the result of pilot error. in its report, the ntsb finds that the probable cause of the accident was the pilot's inadequate planning, judgment and airmanship in the performance of a 180-degree turn maneuver inside of a limited turning space. for aviation experts, this crash is a reminder to all pilots of the importance of planning your flight before departing and always checking the winds en route. >> you always have to be plan a and plan b. because if plan a fails, you need to have the veil up. >> for the new yorkers impacted by this unusual accident, it's an unforgettable close call. >> after that, you say to yourself, i survived a plane crash. and whatever happens in this life, i made it through that. coming up -- >> you had gusty wind
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conditions. you had heavy rain. and that airplane should have never left the ground.
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april 11, 1996. it's a cloudy spring morning in cheyenne, wyoming. a cessna 177 taxis onto the runway. but this is no ordinary flight. in the left-hand pilot seat is 7-year-old jessica dubroff. with her are her father, lloyd dubroff and flight instructor joe reed. their plan is to fly cross country from california to massachusetts and back again in eight days.
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>> this young lady was attempting to be one of the youngest pilots to every fly across the united states. >> one day into her trip, the photogenic young girl's attempt has captured the attention of the nation. >> jessica dubroff's flight was really a media spectacle. they had to be at certain airports and every time they stopped, there was a media frenzy. >> at the second stop on her trip the city of cheyenne rolls out the red carpet. for the young pilot. attention in cheyenne. so an event like this was something special. there was a group of folks at the airport, including the mayor at the time to greet her when she arrived. it was very well known that she was coming. >> after an overnight stay, jessica and her guardians are ready to move on to ft. wayne, indiana, more than 1,000 miles away. at 8:24 a.m. the small plane takes off to fanfare and applause. while the crowd at the runway watches jessica, across the airfield, the wyoming air
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national guard hangar, pilot and flight instructor don feltner has his eyes on something else. >> we were watching a thunderstorm come across the field and we were concerned about hail damage and wind damage and stuff like this. >> the storm is directly in jessica's flight path. the plane banks to the right. that's when susie stoltz, a local resident watching from her window, sees something terrible happen. >> i was on the phone with work and i looked out the window and i saw a plane that was far too north of the airport. and the next thing i know, i saw it dip a little. the whole time i was talking on the phone and i said, the plane is in trouble. something's wrong. something's not right. >> the plane struggles to stay in the air. then just three minutes after taking off, jessica's plane plummets into a suburban street, narrowly missing the homes on either side. the airport's emergency crews scramble to respond. >> i was standing at the end of
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the hangar and they called out code charlie. well, code charlie meant there was a mishap with a civilian airplane. and i remember turning to the person next to me saying, who in the world would be flying in weather like this? >> for chief of police john powell, who was the first to arrive on scene, there is no mistaking whose plane it is. >> i heard on the police dispatch radio that a plane had crashed and had given the address of it. and i had realized it was just about a block away. i got in the car, headed that way and i came around the corner and saw the plane. >> it appeared to me to have come in at a sharp angle. it wasn't a long crash. it apparently had nosed right in to where it was. and it was very apparent no one had survived. very difficult to see. very upsetting. >> first responders are joined by ntsb investigators, who begin systematically examining the wreckage and reconstructing the fine moments of jessica's flight.
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but for veteran pilot don feltner there is no question about what contributed to this accident. >> nobody, but nobody penetrates a thunderstorm. the airliners go around them, they go above them, you don't go under them. >> thunderstorms and airplanes don't mix for a variety of different reasons. the obvious reasons of course are the potential for hail, heavy rain, high winds, reduced visibility and up and down drafts. and even the largest of aircraft are affected by mother nature. >> thunderstorms form when moist air rapidly heats and rises to create towering clouds. >> during the dissipate ing stages of the thunderstorm when the rain is falling. you have huge columns of cold air called microbursts that are descending out of the clouds at 4,000 foot a minute. that's how fast they come down. if you are in the aircraft they can only climb 500 foot a minute. even at your best climb rate you
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are descending at 3500 a minute. >> an examination of the video taken the morning of the accident suggest that jessica's single engine cessna is challenged by the approaching storm almost immediately after it leaves the ground. >> as the plane took off the speed of the aircraft was very slow. the wind conditions were very gusty. so the wings were rocking. as they got into this actual rainfall. >> once it clears the airport, it continues to have problems. >> i was looking at it. it just kind of looked really low for where the plane really should have been. it looked like it was struggling quite a bit to get some altitude. >> then the airplane appears to lose lift altogether. >> you could tell the plane was in trouble when it dipped. went below the roof and tree line and crashed into the ground. we actually felt it. you could feel the ground shake. i was in shock. i was like oh, my gosh, somebody just died. >> investigators determined the
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probable cause of the crash was the improper decision to take off in deteriorating weather conditions. >> you had gusty wind conditions. you have heavy rain and that airplane should have never left the ground. >> the mystery, however, is who made this catastrophic decision and why? as investigators dig deeper the public learns that jessica's record-breaking flight isn't quite what it seems. coming up -- >> the fact is jessica dubroff wasn't a pilot, wasn't qualified in any way, shape or form to be a pilot.
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april 1996, cheyenne, wyoming. moments after a fateful decision to take off into a thunderstorm, jessica dubroff, a 7-year-old trying to set a record as the
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youngest pilot to fly across the united states, is gone. her cessna 177 crashes into a residential neighborhood just yards from the airport, killing her, her father lloyd dubroff, and her flight instructor joe reed. the accident leaves residents of cheyenne deeply shaken. >> it was just so sad. you just had that feeling of gloom over you all day long. like wow, did that just really happen? >> the record attempt had already made the national news as a feel-good story featuring a remarkable child pilot, but now an outraged public wanted to know who made the decision to take off that morning and why a child was allowed to pilot a plane. >> the fact jessica wasn't a pilot, wasn't qualified in any way, shape, or form to be a pilot and never met the basic requirements. >> the big question of the day was who was actually piloting the plane? was it the 7-year-old? was it jessica? or was it her flight instructor?
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>> legally, a person has to be at least 17 years old to hold a private pilot's certificate. so at 7, jessica was technically only a student receiving flight training. joe reid, a certified flight instructor with more than 1,400 hours of flight time as a recreational pilot, was the official pilot in command of their voyage. >> this doesn't mean that she wasn't manipulating the controls. it just means she was not the true pilot of the aircraft. >> by all accounts, jessica was capable of operating the aircraft. >> she had received a good bit of instruction and was flying the airplane reasonably regularly. >> which makes it possible that she was in control of the aircraft when the crash took place. >> the key for investigators was to determine whether or not she may have manipulated the flight controls improperly which resulted in the cause of the crash. >> looking at jessica's location
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in the aircraft, it certainly appeared as if she was flying. the cessna 177 has two sets of functional controls on the left and right sides. at the time of the crash, joe reid was at the right side controls and jessica was on the left. the spot traditionally occupied by the pilot flying the aircraft. but when investigators review the autopsy results, it's clear she wasn't flying. >> the flight instructor did have those characteristic injuries to his wrists and his feet that we would expect to see if someone was physically manipulating the controls at the time of the event. jessica did not have similar injuries. >> this indicates that joe reid was not only legally the pilot in command but also the person actually operating the aircraft. >> consequently, he would have been the final determining person as to whether the airplane should take off. >> so why as an experienced pilot and trained instructor would he break a cardinal rule of aviation and take off into an advancing thunderstorm?
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>> the flight instructor got caught up in the media frenzy of trying to fly with jessica across country. >> investigators discover that lloyd dubroff, jessica's father, had set up multiple press interviews to promote the flight at almost every stop on their trip, adding urgency to their already ambitious schedule. >> he was influenced by jessica's father, who said we need to go, we need to keep this schedule. >> this was a high media visibility eventual. that certainly adds some pressure. >> investigators believe while reid was aware of the threat that the storm posed, he had convinced himself they would be able to clear the area before it got too close. >> he was trying to beat the weather. they decided they could take off and make the turn before they got to the thunderstorm and continue on east. >> what reid doesn't realize is there are other factors stacking up to doom the flight as as soon as it takes off. the first is the high elevation of the airport.
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>> airplanes have more air to work with closer to sea level. the cheyenne airport is well above sea level and as a result airplanes do not climb as quickly. >> compounding the problem is the fact that investigators calculate that the cessna is 96 pounds over its optimal performance weight at the time of takeoff. >> the aircraft was loaded pretty heavy with three people lots of gas and their supplies. so the performance was very degraded on the aircraft. >> then at 8:24, the cessna takes off into a 35-mile-per-hour wind and heavy rain. immediately it has problems. >> the heavy rainfall provided a layer of water on the wing, which degraded the aerodynamic performance of the wing. >> high elevation, too much weight and reduced wing efficiency make it impossible for the aircraft to gain speed and climb. >> as the pilot tried to make a turn and get the airplane
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heading on of course, of course the increased bank will increase stall speed. >> at this point, there is insufficient air flow over the wings to keep the plane in flight. in other words, it stalls. moments later, the cessna crashes to the ground. the tragic conclusion to a perfect storm of errors and miscalculations. >> every accident has a chain of events. there's more than one thing that causes the accident. if the airplane had been loaded a little less heavy, maybe they could have climbed quicker, made their turn. if they'd just waited 20 minutes, the thunderstorm would have passed. it was just beyond the airplane's capability to climb through that. >> when you're trying to fight mother nature, you'd better be very well prepared, or bad things are going to happen. >> in the end the flight did set a precedent. the tragedy prompted the faa to
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pass the child pilot safety act in 1996, prohibiting the manipulation of flight controls by a child attempting to set any kind of aviation record. >> then it makes you wonder why she was there to begin with. did it really need to happen? could it have been prevented? and was it worth it?
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due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. >> msnbc takes you behind the walls of america's most notorious prisons, into a world of chaos and danger. now the scenes you've never seen. "lockup: raw." >> i don't know what else you want. this is it. this is life. okay? you know. you got your cell. you got this. and the yard. that's all there is. prison consists of nothing else. inside this cell, couple hours, maybe, in a day room. couple hours maybe on the yard. and that's it. day after day after day after day after day after day. it's the same thing. nothing changes.


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