JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Crash investigators found a 73-year-old pilot who died in a Thanksgiving 2017 crash at Camp Blanding was urged to wait out a storm before flying to Jacksonville, according to the final National Transportation Safety Board report released this week.
Investigators were told Herman Steele, 73, from Tennessee, was anxious to get from Ocala to Cecil Field to spend the holiday with his daughter. It was also her birthday.
The NTSB said Steele chose to fly in stormy weather even though he did not meet FAA requirements for Instrument Flight Rules. A friend told investigators that he had flown with Steele to Ocala earlier that day and they landed in turbulent weather. It was still raining hard and windy and the friend urged Steele to wait out the weather, but he was anxious to fly on to Cecil Airport. The report said at first he agreed, but then told airport personnel to top off his fuel tanks because was “gonna go for it.”
Steele took off but ran into more turbulence. An air traffic controller that noted that the Mooney M-20 four-seat, single-engine aircraft didn’t seem to be maintaining the assigned altitude and asked if he was OK. Steele answered he was, but agreed when it was suggested that divert to Jacksonville International Airport, where the weather was better.
A few minutes later, the plane crashed at the National Guard base just of State Road 16 in Clay County.
The report noted that Steele had more 3,146 hours of flight experience.