Plane goes missing near RDU

Jesus. The plane behind us just crashed in RDU and I had to let the family in the FBO know because some student pilot came in and announced it. That was the worst conversation I’ve ever had. I told them not to give up hope. The plane disappeared 2 miles off the approach end of 32. I hope they find it intact. No ELT.


Beach, they’re still looking for it.
BTW, I returned to RDU today about an hour before. Very windy from the storm.

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@BeachAV8R that’s a awful thing to have happen. I hope it has a happy ending for the family.
I dont envy you there

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Oh geez that’s ugly. Suddenly it’s not all pretty planes and cool dudes, but very real danger. Has the plane been found?

I’m back in RDU after flying to New Orleans…and the plane has still not been found.

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Oh no. :frowning:

Flight track.

From what I hear, they’re still looking, outside of Umstead now. This has got to be gut-wrenching for the families.

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More info

Sounds like they’ve found something.

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Now that the situation is looking rather bleak, I am wondering if an admin might want to move the plane accident posts to their own thread.

I thank @BeachAV8R for posting this to begin with and especially for sharing his feelings with us regarding the difficult situation he was thrown into with no warning. I think we all agree that having that conversation with the family took a special kind of moral courage.


I completely agree. It’s not just the victims are affected in a time like this. It causes a ripple of misery.
Hope your ok Chris. I Feel for you being thrown into a situation you have no control over. Hope you are coping with it all ok. Not a nice thing for anybody involved.


Yeah, just woke up and saw the news. Another reminder not every sunrise is guaranteed. I feel so bad for the victims and family. I would have been going out of my mind knowing they were out there somewhere in the woods.

I believe they would have been found much faster if their ELT had gone off. I’m wondering if the ELT batteries were out of inspection or something because we definitely didn’t hear one. I relistened to the ATC tape recordings this morning and it was readily apparent that RDU was handling him with kid gloves on both GPS approaches. His decision to keep descending after breaking out is just…well…inexplicable. The full report may shed some light. I’m just really disappointed there was no miracle outcome…I was really hoping they found it in the trees intact.

Returning to Charlotte this morning…


The video footage accompanying the article (not graphic) shows how dense that forested area is. You’d think a drone equipped with a heat sensor would have been able to fly straight off the end of the approach path and found that airplane within an hour.


From what I’ve heard from a friend with the Sheriff’s office, that’s actually how they started looking last night. But again, who knows what other critters and heat sources there are there, especially considering how dense and large Umstead is.


Yeah…it’s easy to be an idea man after the fact, but I’m sure the density of those woods made spotting anything difficult. I think a police helo went up to search but quit around 2AM.

I didn’t think about it until later but we might have been able to get permission from our company to take a short flight and shoot that GPS approach and take a look at the short final with our nose mounted FLIR camera. It doesn’t have the highest resolution though…no doubt the police helo was probably far better equipped. In this day of ADS-B, Mode-S, radar, and GPS…it is pretty incredible that a plane can disappear just a couple miles off the centerline of a major international airport.

I’d like to walk to the site at some point in the coming months.

My FO and I discussed the “what ifs” all night. When you are in a King Air trying to chew into a 60 knot headwind from Raleigh to New Orleans you have plenty of time to solve all the mysteries of mankind. What was interesting was that the plane we thought we had heard and assumed had crashed was actually a plane on the approach behind the accident plane. We touched down on 5R at probably the exact moment the plane crashed going to 32. Anyway, our attempts at reconstruction just based on what we had heard were woefully inaccurate…a glimpse into just how poor “eyewitness” accounts can be. You can start off with a faulty assumption and just continue to go wrong from there.


Someone has already come up with this. Tells a lot of the story:

Disturbing. Not being a pilot I won’t comment as it would be truly uninformed. That said, just the tone of the ATC controllers voices, compared to the tone of accident pilot’s voice is telling.

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A couple of things worth mentioning.

Listening to the audio after the fact…we already know what happens, so we become prejudiced as we hear it because we are already thinking what should happen instead of what did happen. It is quite obvious that once the autopilot failed the pilot was not IFR proficient enough to aviate/navigate/communicate all at the same time. He couldn’t hold 4,000’ and had to ask multiple times about headings. ATC giving up and telling him to just maintain 4,400’ was a mistake in my opinion…maintaining 4,400’ would have been a lot harder than just getting him back to 4,000’.

Resetting your GPS for a new approach can be tough when you are hand flying in the clouds, single pilot, without an autopilot. Changing fixes from CONCA to SINNO after the fist approach goes awry sounds like a small change, but the guy was clearly swamped already. Again, knowing the outcome makes this all hard to look at objectively. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t have been one of the two major runways (5L) closed…so there were probably ten aircraft lined up for 5R or taking vectors for the ILS 5R that (operationally) had to use 5R. So making room in that lineup for a small GA piston was not really what they wanted to do. Unfortunately, it appears the pilot did not want to self confess that he was really having trouble, and ATC thought they could shepherd him in on 32. I don’t know for sure, but it sure sounds like the guy sort of dumped down below the overcast (around 1000’ overcast) and at that low altitude several miles from the end of 32, you wouldn’t be able to see the runway lights, nor any of the other lights of RDU runways because the treeline would be blocking your line of sight. Instead of maintaining that position just below the clouds, it looks like he continued to drift down and hit the trees. (All speculation).

Had they given up on him and vectored him to 5R, those approach lights are way brighter, and the glidepath is clearer for a longer distance out. He probably would have acquired the airport and landed and we wouldn’t be talking about any of this.

I’m not blaming ATC. 100% of the blame for this looks to be pilot proficiency, but I don’t know anything about the guy. He might have just been having a really, really bad night. I feel bad for the controller…this will stay with him forever and I’m sure he’s “what if’ing” this to death. Just a miserable outcome all around.

All of this is just my largely uninformed opinion and ignores deeper study into the facts that are unavailable. So all of this could be wrong.


I agree with you @BeachAV8R.

On listening it felt like task saturation to me. The poor guy. We’ve all been there. I’m only a GA pilot but I’ve definitely had those things you depend on unravel on me and then things snowball. This was awful and heart wrenching listening. No one to blame here in my view. Just a sad series of events.