NTSB: Pilot Passed Two Airports Before Crash That Killed Four

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (STMW) — A pilot passed up two chances to land at suburban airports — because he didn’t want to get stranded — just minutes before crashing near Crystal Lake last month, killing his two daughters and one of the girls’ boyfriends.

Central Indiana businessman Ray Harris was flying his daughter Ramie back to Wheaton College on Nov. 26 when the single-engine plane crashed.

Killed in the crash were Harris, 46; his daughters Ramie, 21, and Shey, 20; and Shey’s boyfriend, Chris Backus, 22, of Eau Claire, Wis.

Ray Harris was headed to DuPage Airport in West Chicago but “inadvertently flew over the airport,” according to a preliminary report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

He reversed course in an attempt to return to the airport but lost sight of it. He told a controller he was not sure if he wanted to land there because he did not want to “get in there and get stuck all day” due to the weather.

Weather conditions at the airport included overcast clouds at 900 feet above ground level, 1-3/4 miles visibility in light rain and mist, the report said.

After missing the airport, the controller told Ray Harris to try to land at Chicago Executive Airport which required “visual flight rules conditions.”

Harris told the controller that the flight was “in and out of the clouds right now.” And when the controller asked if he was qualified for instrument flight rules (IFR), he said he was in training and “I’ve let this get around me.”

About 10:12 a.m., the pilot told a controller he would head to the Chicago Executive Airport but later told them he was no longer heading there. He commented that he didn’t want to “mess with the weather” and didn’t want to “get stuck in here,” the report said.

That was the last the controller heard before the crash.

The plane hit a tree and an open agricultural field about four miles north-northwest of Lake in the Hills Airport about 10:30 a.m. Tree limbs were found broken all over the area and the debris field was about 400 feet long.

All that was left of the plane was the fuselage, right wing and horizontal stabilizer. The engine and propeller had separated from the frame and were found north of the wreckage, the report said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • Just Axin

    Didn’t it run out of gas? Good job, Dad!

  • dan

    Yeah kinda like when your on a road trip on the interstate and you say “I’ll gas up at the next exit” only to realize after it’s too late that the next exit is 50 miles away and you have 40 miles of gas in your tank……

    I think they should start tracking and make public just how many plane crashes are due to running out of gas-it happened to the band Lynyrd Skynrd.

    How would you like to be killed in your own bed due to some dumb azz flying a plane intoyour house because he ran out of gas!

  • DaveAgain

    Most likely he didn’t run out of gas. He was a visual flight rules pilot who flew into instrument flight rules conditions. Ie., he wasn’t qualified to fly using instruments only. This is like driving a car at 150 mph on a foggy day/night when you can’t see more than a 100 feet, or like driving at that speed with a tarp covering all your windows. His mistake was not maintaining flight in VFR – visual flight rules conditions and not landing while he could still see the ground.

  • darth

    his mistake was being too concerned about “getting stuck” because of weather and being too important to land and wait the weather out. Ignorance is the cause of many deaths.

  • Centurion

    Land the plane and be stuck for an hour or 2…or continue flying and KILL EVERYONE…..decisions…decisions.

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