Report: Pilot using wrong flight rules at time of crash

David Starling, Kim Smith, and Hunter Starling (Courtesy: WATE/ Samantha Hodges)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — A preliminary report on a fatal plane crash in the Tennessee mountains has found the pilot was using visual flight rules when weather conditions required flying with instruments.

Authorities have said 41-year-old pilot David Starling, his 8-year-old son, Hunter, and Starling’s girlfriend, 42-year-old Kim Smith, died in the crash Dec. 26 when the single-engine plane went down about 15 miles from the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport. All were from Bradford County, Florida.

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The Knoxville News Sentinel on Wednesday quoted the National Transportation Safety Board as saying the weather at the time of the crash was such that it required pilots to fly using instrument flight rules.

Starling’s airman certification from the Federal Aviation Administration shows he wasn’t rated to fly with instruments.