On the heels of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on the November 2017 plane crash that killed four Pulaski County residents, a lawsuit has been filed in federal court led by two of the estates. The suit disputes the conclusions in the report and says an air traffic controller provided instructions to the pilot that led to the crash.
The NTSB investigation into the crash that killed pilot Scott Foster and three others concluded that the cause was that Foster, a non-instrument rated pilot, flew into weather conditions that required the use of instruments. This caused “a loss of control due to spatial disorientation.”
The lawsuit alleges, however, that information provided by the controller, based at the Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), ignored reports from another pilot in the area that an aircraft experienced icing conditions.
The lawsuit also states the controller ignored or failed to communicate specific recommendations for visual-only pilot courses of action until after Foster made a mayday call and lost control of the plane.
The suit was filed by Amy Foster on her own behalf and as the administrator to Noah Foster, the 15-year-old son of Scott and Amy Foster who also perished in the crash.
Also a plaintiff in the suit is Sara Whitaker, the widow of crash victim Doug Whitaker.
On Nov. 12, 2017, Foster’s plane was in route from Union City, Tenn., on its way back to Lake Cumberland Regional Airport when it crashed in Fountain Run, Ky. in Barren County.
The plane went down around 2:10 p.m. Central Standard Time.
The suit contends that when encountering a bank of clouds, Foster contacted a U.S. Air Traffic Control (ATC) controller requesting “vectors to an altitude with better visibility.”
“The ATC controller ignored his request and told Pilot Foster to ‘hold’ while the controller communicated with another aircraft that could tell ATC the cloud top level,” the suit states.
The ATC controller was told – and relayed to Foster – that cloud tops were visible at 8,000 feet and asked Foster if he could climb to that height.
“The ATC controller failed to suggest or instruct Pilot Foster to fly wings level in a turn of 180 degrees to return to the VMC (visual meteorological conditions) from which the subject aircraft had come. This is the primary maneuver to escape inadvertent IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) encounters by all flight instructors,” the lawsuit states.
The NSTB report notes that Foster's plane was tracked on radar several minutes before the crash performing a 180-degree left turn, followed immediately by a 180-degree right turn.
The lawsuit goes on to say that the controller also failed to suggest descending and diverting to the nearest airport.
The suit argues that asking Foster to fly to 8,000 feet put the plane at an altitude where icing was possible. The NTSB report did not mention icing conditions as a factor in the crash.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages "in an amount to be determined."
Both Amy Foster and Sara Whitaker released statements to the Herald Leader.
Foster said of the crash, “You learn to live with it. It becomes a part of who you are, and you just find a way to keep going.”
Sara Whitaker commented that her husband’s death is “a nightmare we can’t wake up from.”
The family of the crash’s fourth victim, Kyle Stewart, has filed a suit in Barren County against the estate of Scott Foster, alleging negligence in Stewart’s death.
According to the Herald Leader, Foster’s estate denies that Foster acted improperly.