By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Pres
JACKSON — A plane crash in Mississippi that killed a Georgia businessman and his wife in 2010 was probably caused by the man flying into known bad weather and the air traffic controller’s failure to provide required precipitation information, federal authorities said.
The Oct. 26, 2010, crash in the Hatchie Bottom area of Alcorn County killed James “Jim” Judson Jr., and his wife Elizabeth. They were headed home from Olive Branch after watching their daughter, a University of Southern Mississippi student, in a golf tournament in nearby Memphis, Tenn.
James Judson was an Atlanta-area businessman and member of the Wake Forest University Board of Trustees. He and his wife were headed to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Georgia when the plane went down in Alcorn County, Miss.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a probable cause report on the accident Monday. The report indicates that James Judson knew bad weather was approaching and he was trying to get ahead of it. The report also said James Judson had “substantially damaged airplanes during encounters with adverse weather” on at least two previous occasions.
Before taking off on the day of the accident, James Judson called a flight services station to file an instrument flight plan, used in poor weather conditions when a pilot must rely on cockpit instruments. When asked if he needed information on the latest adverse weather, James Judson replied, “No, that’s why we are getting out of here,” the report said.
Then, the air traffic controller who handled the airplane “only provided the accident pilot with a 20-minute old pilot report from an airplane not in the vicinity of the accident,” the report said. “No other information was provided to the pilot about the precipitation depicted on the controller’s display, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration.”
The Beechcraft Bonanza was equipped with instruments that provide weather information, but the NTSB said it isn’t known if the system was enabled or what features may have been displayed at the time of the accident.
The airplane took off and climbed to 14,800 feet where it went into a rapid descent and disappeared from radar at 13,900 feet, the report said. The plane appears to have broken apart in flight due to weather-induced stress.
“Examination of weather radar data revealed that a line of intense or extreme thunderstorms crossed the airplane’s route of flight,” the report said.
James Judson made a fortune when he sold his computer software company, Witness Systems Inc. He also served on the board of directors of CreditHawk LLC, according to the company’s website.
During an interview with The Associated Press on the day of the accident, James Judson Sr. described his son as a fun-loving businessman and said the couple was active in the Catholic church and enjoyed sharing with charities.
“They were both very successful people,” the elder Judson said at the time.
The NTSB summed up the probable cause of the accident this way: “The pilot’s continued flight into known adverse weather conditions. Contributing to the accident was the air traffic controller’s failure to provide precipitation information to the pilot as required.”