I wish the crew of the doomed Cessna Skyline, which departed from the Split airport on Sunday 29th May, read my story, published on Friday. I wish they had learned from similar accidents in the past. Again, the stage was set for the perfect storm: weekend flight to the seaside, the passage of a cold front predicted well in advance, getting-home-itis in the cockpit, and the least suitable route selected for flight back.

The fact, that weather was rather good at the departure airport, was just one of the things, that kept tunneling the pilot’s mental picture of what they were to encounter barely half an hour later.

Here is METAR for Split at the approximate time of departure:

LDSP 290900Z 09005KT 060V130 CAVOK 24/10 Q1005 NOSIG

For non-aviation readers – the wind was calm and no clouds, and the temperature was 24 degrees Celsius. Perfect for flying. We have no information if they consulted at the office or even checked the weather forecast. Even if they had, it is obvious now, that they underestimated what was waiting for them in the mountains behind beautiful sunny Split. METAR for Zadar airport for the same part of the day would already give some hints

LDZD 290900Z 07010KT 040V120 9999 FEW030 BKN045 19/11 Q1006 NOSIG

Significantly stronger easterly wind, with quite some low-level clouds for the airport just about 25 minutes flying time from Split.

Had they checked the weather at airports along their planned route, alarms should go off….

LJLJ 290900Z 11008KT 9999 -RA FEW010 BKN050 11/10 Q1011 NOSIG

LDZA 290900Z 07004KT 020V110 9999 -RA FEW010 OVC038 12/10 Q1011 TEMPO 04010KT RA

Rain in Ljubljana, rain, and overcast clouds at 3800 ft in Zagreb, conditions quite the opposite of what they were observing at the time when they started their engines….

The route they selected took them over some tricky terrain, not many options for an emergency landing, and most importantly – very hilly, making it more difficult to maintain VFR when the cloud base is lowering. 

What exactly happened is not yet clear, but first reports indicate, that they likely lost VMC conditions by entering a cloud. When transiting from VMC to IMC conditions, spatial disorientation is hard enough on trained professionals, let alone Sunday pilots. Their last reported position near Rakovica at 2300 ft indicates, that they were desperately trying to keep away from the overcast layer of clouds, feeling trapped between the cloud barrier above and woody and hilly terrain below. 

Today they found the wreckage. 4 dead.


photo source: the dubrovnik times

Categories: Sky Stories

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