NTSB: Pilot In Fatal Crash Had No Instrument Rating

By: Staff Reports

The flight track as provided by the NTSB.

ORLEANS — In their preliminary report, federal investigators say the pilot whose plane went down in the waters off Nauset Beach on Oct. 31 did not have an instrument flight rating, and arrived over Chatham more than an hour after sunset.

The National Transportation Board reported Tuesday that pilot Roger Mills of Woburn, Mass., was in the second leg of a journey that started in Seymour, Indiana just after noon local time. Mills fueled his Piper Dakota and flew east to Reading, Penn., where he refueled again. He left the Reading Regional Airport at 4:53 p.m., bound for the Chatham airport.

Records show that the airplane made most of the journey at an altitude of around 8,000 feet until starting its descent to Chatham. At 6:44 p.m., flying at 1,000 feet, it flew over the Chatham runway at an oblique angle and then traveled over Chatham Harbor and Nauset Beach, as if to circle around and approach the runway from the northeast end. Instead, the aircraft flew northeast to a position about 2.5 miles offshore, turning abruptly to the left and then to the right again before crashing in the water.

The remains of the pilot have not been found. The wreckage of the plane has been located but not recovered.

“Examination of the airframe and engine are pending recovery of the wreckage,” the preliminary report reads.

The report notes that the sun set at 5:35 p.m., and twilight lasted until just after 6 p.m. The moon was not visible at the time.

FAA records show that Mills held a private pilot certificate and a third-class medical certificate from November, 2019. At the time, he had logged 300 hours of total flight experience, of which 75 hours had been in the six months prior to the exam. He did not hold an instrument rating. While such a rating is not strictly required to fly at night in the U.S., it is strongly recommended by many flight instructors.

NTSB Spokesperson Peter Knudson said Nov. 23 that an investigator "likely" will be sent to the site of the crash. He said a final report on the crash could take anywhere from one to two years to complete.

"Most fatal general aviation accident investigations are completed in 12 to 24 months," he said.