Report: Pilot failed to control plane

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 15, 2011

KANNAPOLIS — The airplane crash that killed a prominent Kannapolis businessman, his wife and granddaughter in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., last year was caused by the pilot’s failure to maintain control of the plane while maneuvering around a thunderstorm after dark, a task that required flying by instruments, according to federal investigators.
Danny Carroll’s lack of experience flying by instruments contributed to the accident, concludes a final report released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The crash on July 14 claimed the lives of Danny and Raychel Carroll and their 4-year-old granddaughter, Mallory Fields.
Danny Carroll, 54, was co-owner of Lady’s Funeral Home in Kannapolis. Raychel Carroll, 66, was a retired teacher. They were well-known in Cabarrus County and remembered as loving and giving people committed to their faith and their community.
Danny Carroll was a licensed pilot and was flying the airplane when it crashed in a mobile home park a few miles north of the airport in Myrtle Beach.
The couple and their granddaughter were killed instantly. Several residents of the mobile home park were injured.
The Carrolls had spent the day with family on vacation in North Myrtle Beach and were headed back to Concord Regional Airport when the accident occurred. Federal investigators said last year that Carroll was not rated to fly at night in the rented Piper PA-28 and was scheduled to have it back in Concord by 8:30 p.m. that evening.
However, he notified Concord Regional Flight Services that he had to delay his return flight because of stormy weather in the area.
The Piper took off from Grand Strand Airport shortly before 9 p.m. The crash happened just minutes later.
Carroll had been a licensed pilot since 1991. FAA records show he held a license to fly a single-engine airplane and possessed an instrument rating, meaning he was qualified to fly at night. But investigators say he lacked recent instrument or night experience.
Investigators said last year that Carroll had scheduled a July 12 solo flight in the Piper PA-28 “to satisfy night currency requirements,” but had been forced to cancel it due to bad weather.
According to the report released Monday, Carroll received a standard weather briefing at the Grand Strand Airport for instrument flight rules. He was told a storm system had formed along the coast, with the largest cell just west of the airport, and advised to initially fly northeast or southwest to avoid that cell before turning west toward Concord.
A “broken ceiling” of clouds was present at 1,100 feet and heavier clouds at 2,000 feet, with distant lightning visible west of the airport, the report says.
A review of radar data showed the strong cell was about 12 miles west of the airport when Carroll took off, the report says.
After takeoff, the airplane turned left about 180 degrees and flew northeast along the coast.
The plane’s radar track then varied between north and northeast until about five minutes after takeoff, when it reached a height of 2,300 feet and began a right descending turn.
Carroll had been instructed shortly before the accident to climb to 6,000 feet, the cruising altitude listed in the flight plan, federal investigators said.
The plane was last recorded on radar at 1,800 feet about 5 miles northeast of the airport.
There was no emergency call sent from the plane before the crash, investigators said.
“Although the official end of civil twilight occurred (one) minute after the accident, the combination of a dark dusk sky, multiple cloud ceilings, precipitation, and the distraction of maneuvering around a large convective cell, would have been challenging for a pilot with limited recent actual instrument experience,” the federal report concludes.