Report: Plane crashed while pilot took selfies

National Transportation Safety Board

It’s hard for anyone who has flown an airplane to understand the jaw-dropping foolishness documented in a National Transportation Safety Board report that blames a Colorado plane crash on a pilot taking selfies, according to the Denver Post.

Amritpal Singh, and his passenger were killed when their small plane went down near Watkins, Colorado last May 31.

In its probable cause report issued last week, the NTSB said…

An onboard recording device (GoPro) was found near the wreckage and the files were recovered. Based on the available information, it is likely that the GoPro files were recorded on May 30 and May 31, 2014, with the final GoPro file recorded during the 6-minute flight in the traffic pattern. The accident flight was not recorded. The GoPro recordings revealed that the pilot and various passengers were taking self-photographs with their cell phones and, during the night flight, using the camera’s flash function during the takeoff roll, initial climb, and flight in the traffic pattern.

Some news organizations are reporting that GoPro footage showed that just before it crashed, the pilot was taking a selfie. That’s incorrect, as the NTSB noted.

The actual report from those analyzing GoPro footage (available here)from the camera in the crash didn’t really provide any evidence that when the pilot lost control of his plane, it was because a flash went off and blinded him.

In fact, none of the video footage recovered was from the doomed flight, so there is no proof of the NTSB’s conclusion.

But the NTSB found other videos on the camera from a flight just before the flight which crashed, which it said shows a “pattern of behavior” by the pilot.

The crash occurred on a flight an hour or so later. The pilot was in the clouds, and couldn’t tell which way was up. He was an instrument-rated pilot and should have been able to rely on the plane’s instrumentation, but instead he climbed, lost airspeed, and the plane lost lift and spiraled to the ground, killing the pilot and his passenger.

The NTSB is doing something here it normally doesn’t do: guessing that the pilot was blinded by taking selfies and unable to see the instruments.

  • Paul F

    Interesting. GoPros don’t have flashes.

    • There’s no allegation that they were taking selfies with Go Pros. The Go Pro’s videos showed selfies being taken with a PED.

      • Paul F

        Ah, yes; thanks for clarifying. Curious on the pilot’s currency and experience. Run up, control check and who knows what else during taxi operations is bad form.

        • Apparently he wasn’t night current but I presume he was IFR current.

          Also worth noting, in the absence of any record indicating receipt of a clearance, that he was flying VFR in IFR conditions.

          Unfathomable how someone can be so stupid.

          • Paul F

            Agreed. There are so many errors in the flight, you wonder how the individual ever passed a check ride. Or where along his time as PIC he became so blatantly complacent.

  • If you’ve taken selfies of yourself on previous flights, I would imagine you wouldn’t need to continue to take selfies on future flights. How many photos of yourself on a plane do you need? Seems impractical.

    • John

      How many selfies have you seen that were necessary and/or practical?

      • Confused

        You have a very good point.

  • Paul F
    • He’s incorrect about Class G. Clear of clouds is for daytime, not nighttime. There was no way to make this flight legally in VFR rules.

      • Paul F

        I tried to write more but I was on my phone and wasn’t working. I thought the timeline is interesting to see, and especially a METAR report closer to the actual flight. He is incorrect on VFR in G at night

        From the report:

        METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

        On May 30, 2014, at 2359, a special surface weather observation from the Denver International Airport (DEN), which was located 5 miles northwest of the accident site,
        reported: wind calm, 2 1⁄2 miles visibility, mist, ceiling overcast at 300 feet, temperature 55° Fahrenheit (F), dew point 54° F, and altimeter setting 30.19 inches of mercury.

        On May 31, 2014 at 0027, another special surface weather observation was issued for DEN: wind from 160 degrees at 3 knots, 6 miles visibility, mist, scattered clouds at
        200 feet, broken clouds at 500 feet, temperature 55 degrees F, dew point 54 degrees F, and altimeter setting 30.19 inches of mercury.

        • No pilot in their right mind would launch VFR in those conditions, let alone spend the time during critical flight phases taking pictures.

          It’s amazing the toxicology report came back clean.