NTSB: Pilot lost track of altitude before Putnam County crash


CRESCENT CITY, Fla. – Federal investigators say a pilot whose float plane crashed in Putnam County last month appears to have lost track of his altitude shortly before impact.

The SeaRey plane piloted by 79-year-old James Goolsby went down in a lake in Crescent City about 5 p.m. July 16, a half-hour after taking off from Eagles Nest Aerodrome, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Goolsby survived and swam ashore afterward.

A preliminary report released by the NTSB shows Goolsby was testing the plane’s engine. He said he was preparing for a water landing when he "lost depth perception" and pushed the stick forward. "Instantly I find myself underwater," he said.

"A subsequent engine test run was performed by friends of the pilot, who reported that the engine started immediately, accelerated smoothly, and ran continuously without interruption," the panel noted.

Goolsby has logged approximately 25,900 total flight hours as an airline pilot, but just four of them in the kind of aircraft involved in the crash. Though he was not badly injured, the plane was "substantially damaged."

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