A 2018 plane crash in Atlanta, Georgia, that killed all four people on board was likely the result of the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation during takeoff in cloudy weather, federal investigators said.

In its final report of the Dec. 21, 2018 plane crash, the National Transportation Board (NTSB) said that pilot Wei Chen took off from Atlanta’s Fulton County Airport in cloudy weather, using the plane’s instruments to navigate.

Flight data showed the Cessna 560 increase its rate of climb from about 3,500 feet per minute to 9,600 feet per minute before slowing to 86 mph and descending in a right turn. The plane then entered an inverted roll and stalled before colliding with the ground.

“It is likely that the pilot became spatially disoriented after entering the cloud layer, which resulted in the airplane’s high rate of climb, rapid loss of airspeed, and a likely aerodynamic stall,” the NTSB report said. “The steep descending right turn, the airplane’s roll to an inverted attitude, and the high-energy impact are also consistent with a loss of control due to spatial disorientation.”

Mr. Chen was CEO of Sunshine Enterprises, Inc., a Memphis, Tennessee-based distributor of Chinese construction and industrial equipment. He was also a highly experienced pilot. In 2011, Mr. Chen flew around the world in a single-engine plane and later wrote a book about the experience, “Around The World in 69 Days: What Would You Attempt To Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?”

Also killed in the plane crash were passengers John Chen, Bruce Pelynio and Danielle Robinson, all of whom were members of his executive staff.

According to the Associated Press, Mr. Wei founded Sunshine Enterprises in Memphis in 1998. Since then the company has grown to employ about 400 people with operations in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston.

Wrongful death lawsuits filed against Mr. Wei’s estate and his companies by some of the surviving members of the victims’ families allege the fatal plane crash was the result of negligence.

Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation. Mike has represented people seriously injured in a variety of aviation crashes similar to the one described in this story, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. He currently represents families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Additional sources:
Righting Injustice
USA Today

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