Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family Blames Crash on FAA; Government Says Pilot Had Complete Weather Data before '01 Accident

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family Blames Crash on FAA; Government Says Pilot Had Complete Weather Data before '01 Accident

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM, The Times-Union

Testimony began Wednesday in a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration brought by families of four Northeast Florida residents killed in a 2001 single-engine plane crash near Jacksonville International Airport.

Lawyers for the families argue that FAA air traffic controllers were negligent in providing incomplete and inaccurate weather information to Jacksonville attorney Donald Weidner, pilot of the Piper Cherokee that crashed Dec. 12, 2001.

But U.S. Justice Department lawyers, representing the FAA, maintain there was no negligence and Weidner was taking cold medication not approved for pilots. They say he was to blame.

The non-jury trial, delayed a day because of Hurricane Frances, is expected to last through next week.

The crash killed Weidner; his law colleague Tom Bowden; and clients James and Adrienne Abrisch, owners of Carriage House photo studio in Orange Park, who had flown with Weidner to a meeting in Fort Lauderdale. Weidner, an instrument-rated pilot, had planned to return the couple to the St. Augustine Airport, then fly on to Craig Airport in Jacksonville but missed approaches at both airports because of fog.

As he approached JIA, Weidner was given old weather information that didn't include a reduction in visibility, the families' lawyers contend.

"Weidner was not only never informed of the . . . weather observations showing rapidly deteriorating ceilings and visibility but was misled that observations made one hour and 20 minutes earlier remained current," attorney Barry Newman argued. "These conditions would not permit Weidner to legally land at JAX."

Newman said by the time Weidner got updated information he was inbound on his final approach, and it was too late.

"When Weidner reached decision height, he announced a missed approach and the aircraft began a climbing turn to 1,000 feet," the attorney said. …

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