ORLEANS — The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report on the Oct. 31 fatal crash of a single-engine plane into the ocean 2½ miles east of Nauset Beach in Orleans.
The pilot, Roger Mills, 67, of Woburn, was flying alone and was killed in the crash when his Piper PA-236 nosedived into the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 7 p.m. His body has not been found.
The plane wreckage was found Nov. 3 in about 80 feet of water, 2.5 miles east of Orleans. Mills, a retired executive at a medical device company, had 300 hours of flight experience, according to the NTSB report. He did not have an instrument rating to land or takeoff when weather or other conditions restricted visibility.
But on that Halloween night, the visibility was 10 miles, according to the report, although the moon had not yet risen, and the wind was slight at a little over 6 mph. Mills had received his medical certificate to fly in November 2019 and would have been due to have it renewed this month.
Although Mills did not need an instrument rating to fly that night, the Federal Aviation Administration does caution against flying at night, particularly over water.
"Night flying requires that pilots are aware of, and operate within, their abilities and limitations," the FAA wrote in its "Airplane Flying Handbook."
The plane, which was built in 1979, had last been inspected in January this year.
The report says the flight originated at noon that day in Seymour, Indiana, and arrived at Reading Regional Airport just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at 4:23 p.m., where Mills refueled for the final leg of his flight to Chatham Municipal Airport. For most of his flight, Mills flew at 8,000 feet.
According to Federal Aviation Administration tracking data, as he neared Chatham, Mills began his descent approach to the airport and at 6:44 p.m. he was flying at 1,000 feet. But Mills overflew the airport and headed northeast out over the Atlantic Ocean before making a 270-degree turn and heading back toward Chatham.
Within minutes, the plane had made a descending right-hand turn dropping quickly, losing 400 feet within a few seconds before the tracking data abruptly ended, according to the NTSB report.
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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: NTSB releases preliminary report on fatal Halloween night plane crash