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BOARD WON’T REASSIGN BLAME FOR PLANE CRASH OVER KEARNS

SHARE BOARD WON’T REASSIGN BLAME FOR PLANE CRASH OVER KEARNS

The National Transportation Safety Board will not change its finding that a private Mooney M20C caused the Jan. 15, 1987, collision with a Sky West Metroliner over Kearns that killed all 10 aboard both aircraft.

The NTSB found that the pilots aboard the Mooney flew into restricted airspace around Salt Lake International Airport without authority and failed to see the Sky West plane that was landing at Salt Lake City after a flight from Pocatello.The board on Wednesday stuck to its earlier finding that the Mooney, owned by Chester Baker, was probably on an instrument training flight with instructor Paul Lietz, of Sandy, responsible for navigating and avoiding traffic.

Board members conceded that they could not be certain whether Baker or Lietz was actually flying the plane when the crash occurred or whether Lietz was actually giving instruction to Baker. But they said the preponderance of the evidence pointed to a training flight.

Lietz's wife had asked the board to reverse its finding that her husband was probably responsible for the crash. She said she found an instrument hood and goggles, used to blind an instrument trainee, in her husband's belongings after the crash. No hood or goggles were found in the crash debris by investigators. She said Paul Lietz always took the hood and goggles with him when he was going to give instrument training.

Board members, however, heard testimony that the Mooney's track was consistent with an instrument training flight. Member John K. Lauder, a pilot, said it would be likely that a first instrument training flight, such as Baker told friends he was planning, would involve tracking to radio beacons and other work without a hood. Flying instruments, however, would force a pilot to look inside the plane, leaving navigation and lookout responsibilities to the instructor.

This week's findings are not likely to affect the outcome of suits by the families of both Lietz and Baker, and of the two dead Sky West pilots, against the FAA for allegedly failing to warn the planes that they were on a collision course.