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Report faults pilot in crash that killed LI couple

The pilot of a charity flight that crashed in August 2008, killing a Riverhead man and his wife on their way to Boston for cancer treatment, wasn't properly certified to fly in bad weather, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

It is not known whether the pilot's lack of an instrument rating contributed to the crash, which occurred in overcast skies and light rain with a low cloud ceiling. NTSB investigators said there were broken clouds at 1,000 to 2,000 feet at the time of the crash with clouds at 5,500 feet.

The rating is an indication that the pilot is able to fly using electronic instruments when the skies are not clear enough to see outside.

The report does not indicate what caused the crash just short of Boston's Logan Airport. The NTSB, the federal agency investigating the crash, will make a ruling on the cause in the next few months.

Robert H. Gregory, 46, and his wife, Donna, 37, were flying to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston when they were killed in the crash. Robert Gregory was undergoing treatment for leukemia. The couple had 4-year-old twins who were not with them at the time.

The pilot, Joe E. Baker, 65, flying the Beechcraft G35 for Angel Flights, was also killed. Angel Flight pilots donate their time and pay for fuel and airport landing fees to fly patients to and from medical appointments.

The plane slammed into a shopping center parking lot southwest of Boston, in South Easton, Mass. The flight took off from Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach early in the morning on Aug. 12, 2008.

A spokesman for Angel Flight Northeast didn't return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

Federal Aviation Administration rules require that pilots need to be proficient at using cockpit instruments in bad weather. Known as Instrument Flight Rules, or IFR, the rules call for a pilot to make a certain number of instrument approaches, landings and holding patterns to maintain instrument certification, the report states.

Baker, of Brookfield, Conn., didn't make the requisite number of instrument flights in the six months before the crash, according to his flight logs.

Crash investigators analyzed his logs and found that between Aug. 4, 2006, and Feb. 3, 2008, Baker made no actual or simulated instrument flights, the report states.

When a pilot's instrument rating lapses, instrument flights cannot occur without passing a new proficiency test, according to the report.

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