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Pilot error likely in 2008 fatal Angel Flight crash

Pilot error was the probable cause of a fatal Angel Flight carrying a Long Island couple that crashed near Boston in 2008, according to federal investigators.

Robert H. Gregory, 43, of Riverhead, who was undergoing treatment for cancer, and his wife, Donna, 37, were flying to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston when they were killed in the crash on Aug. 12, 2008. The pilot, Joe E. Baker, 65, also died.

Robert Gregory was flying to Boston for treatment of leukemia. The couple's twins, a boy and a girl who were 4 at the time, were not with them.

The Beech G35 Bonanza slammed into a shopping center's parking lot in Easton, Mass. The flight had taken off from Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. No one on the ground was killed.

Todd Gregory, of Coram, a cousin of Robert Gregory, said Friday that the Gregory children are living in Florida with Robert Gregory's brother.

"They're doing fine," Todd Gregory said, adding that he did not want to comment on the crash investigation. "I saw them in January."

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that Baker failed to maintain control of the plane while attempting an instrument approach in light rain. Baker's lack of current instrument rating contributed to the cause, crash investigators said.

The NTSB said that Angel Flight, a nonprofit that organizes charity flights for people needing medical treatment, wasn't required to verify the currency of Baker's instrument rating, a certification granted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The pilot aviation system is built on the honor code that every pilot will only fly when they meet every . . . requirement of the FAA," Angel Flight Northeast spokeswoman Barbara Sica said.

Angel Flight pilots sign an agreement that states they will abide by "applicable FAA regulations," Sica said.

An instrument rating certificate is an indication that a pilot is able to fly using electronic instruments when there is no visibility outside.

Piloting an aircraft in bad weather requires flying by instruments, and the FAA requires that pilots be proficient at using cockpit instruments on a certain number of flights each six months.

Baker, of Brookfield, Conn., did not make the requisite number of flights in six months to keep his instrument rating, according to his flight logs, the NTSB said.

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