I TEAM: Pilot blamed in deadly Lake Erie plane crash

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CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I TEAM has uncovered the final report on the investigation into a deadly plane crash into Lake Erie, and it pins the blame on the pilot.

A private jet crashed just after taking off from Burke Lakefront Airport in December, 2016, and the crashed killed all 6 people on board.

Now, the National Transportation Safety Board has finished its investigation.

The NTSB concluded the leading cause was spatial disorientation of the pilot. In other words, confusion in the air. Flying out over the Lake at night, everything looks completely dark whether you look up or down or out the side window. Pilots can easily lose their bearings in those conditions. They may not be able to tell if they plane is rising or falling.

Another factor cited by the NTSB, pilot fatigue. Investigators found pilot John Fleming had been awake nearly 17 hours.

The feds also cited the pilot’s ability to monitor equipment and instruments. They also questioned his total experience with that equipment. Fleming had been certified to fly that particular aircraft though he had very little experience in that type of plane, a Cessna 525.

The I TEAM spoke with Robert Katz, a flight instructor who studies plane crashes. He watched this investigation unfold, and he was not surprised by the findings.

Katz said, “When you’re flying by yourself there’s no one there to back you up.” He added, "All of these buttons, knobs, and switches that I believe were being manipulated during the flight should have been done on the ground."

Katz said a pilot can get overwhelmed and distracted in the air the way someone in a car can be dangerously distracted texting while driving.

In his view, "It was beyond his ability to handle the airplane safely at that time."

Only some human remains were found, so no autopsy or toxicology testing was done on the pilot.

The NTSB did not cite any mechanical issues as factors.

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