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Four U.S. Forestry Service workers had planned to take a Cessna 206 aircraft into the rugged Flathead National Forest back country to conduct a forest inventory. The weather had been overcast that morning with heavy rain and mist, delaying the flight for two hours. When the aircraft did not check in with the Forestry Service at 3:30 p.m., a search and rescue mission was initiated. The Cessna collided with a cloud shrouded mountain, bursting it into flames.
The investigation established that the cause was “the pilot’s misidentification of the airplane’s location, which resulted in his improper decision to fly into the wrong drainage, and his failure to maintain terrain clearance while executing a turn to reverse course after he realized his navigational error. Contributing factors were the low visibility due to mist, obscuration of the mountainous terrain, and the pilot’s lack of experience in back country flying.”
The victim is survived by her husband.