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Kennedy crash caused by pilot, safety board says

SHARE Kennedy crash caused by pilot, safety board says

WASHINGTON — The cause of the crash that killed John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law was probably that Kennedy, with hardly any experience flying his plane alone at night, became disoriented in haze, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday in a staff report.

One of his flight instructors offered to fly with him that night, but Kennedy said "he wanted to do it alone," the instructor told the investigators.

Kennedy, who had not yet qualified for flying with instruments alone (as opposed to having a visible horizon) probably had less than one hour's experience flying his plane at night without an instructor, the report said. It noted that a common cause of crashes among pilots untrained in instrument flying is taking off when visibility is good but flying into conditions where it is not, making the piloting more difficult than they can handle.

In this case, the report said, the condition was haze that obscured the horizon.

The crash killed Kennedy, 38; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, 33; and her sister, Lauren Bessette, 34. Exactly how much experience Kennedy had is not clear, because investigators did not recover his logbook.