Plane Crash Weather

Pike Plane Crash in Fog

The plane crash near the Pike County Regional Airport in Southeastern Kentucky on Wednesday is looking like a weather calamity.

A steady light rain in the late morning and early afternoon in the Kentucky Coalfields cooled the air to the saturation point across the Cumberland Plateau region. This rugged terrain is where Daniel Boone himself wintered back in the 1700s and is known for dense fog banks on wet and chilly winter, spring and fall days.

On Wednesday, that rain cooled air sponsored the leaden-grey overcast with vertical ceilings as low as 300 feet and horizontal visibilities as little as 1000 feet (2 city blocks). Wisps of dense fog dangled from the jagged mountain tops all day long and during the pilot's approach to the air strip.

Now the Hatcher Field airstrip near Pikeville where the twin engine Cessna went down sits at an elevation of 1462’ above sea level. Since nearby Pikeville down along the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy is situated some 500-700 feet lower in elevation, rainy days in the Kentucky Coalfields are notorious for an eerie cloak of fog in the hills above the city.

Talk to students at National Champion Pikeville College and you will hear the frequent Bear tale of how scaling the 99 steps unveils the tallest hills above school as obscured by the fog.

Now imagine trying to fly in the hills on a grey, foggy and gloomy day!

My analog on WSAZ Sunrise was to use a cardboard box as a replica of the steep terrain around Pikeville. As I closed the flaps overtop the box, I alluded to how the lowering ceilings would surround a pilot in fog as he made his approach to the runway. To avoid the hills and make a safe landing, he would have to rely on instruments on his plane (IFR Conditions).
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