INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Although there has been no official cause determined in the plane crash that killed four near Greensburg Sunday, and there may not be for a long time, any pilot will tell you the difficulties of flying in adverse conditions such as that night's fog.
Training for flying in normal conditions is difficult enough, said Instructor pilot Billy Werth, who has trained countless private pilots.
"It's a whole list of items that you have to go through from just like regular flying, to doing stalls, to you know where the airplane isn't flying well, to knowing about hydraulics systems and electrical systems and emergencies," Werth said.
But it's more difficult to train a pilot for adverse weather. Freezing temperatures, thunderstorms and fog are among the worst.
"When the visibility goes down, it reduces the lead time that you have to make a reaction for something coming up. Just like when you're driving, you're going to slow down behind traffic when it gets really foggy," he said.
Sunday night, Werth said, the cloud deck was 600 feet, visibility just 2 miles. Conditions like that can cause what's called spatial disorientation.
"Sometimes your inner ear will feed you information that the airplane is doing something when it's not actually doing that, like if you've ever closed your eyes and spun around in a chair and your ears kind of give you information that you're doing something, but it's not actually how it's happening," he said.
The Piper Malibu is the aircraft model involved in Sunday's accident . Werth said it's a very popular private aircraft. It's also one of the safest when dealing with adverse situations. Among its safety features is a precise landing system.
"It gives you like a cross hair, like a gun sight, similar, to just follow this path right down to the runway, so even if you had the autopilot on and were flying that and letting the airplane fly itself, it would just go down and it would intercept the runway right where the radio antenna comes together," said Werth.
Monday officials said the runway lights did not come on as the plane approached Greensburg Municipal Airport. Those lights are normally activated by the pilot. But like the fog that was hanging over the area, there's no official word if the lights had anything to do with the accident.
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