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Even Experienced Pilots Can Have Decreased Visibility in Small Planes

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FAYETTEVILLE — Some of the planes at Harnett County Airport are similar to the one that John F. Kennedy Jr. was flying Friday night. One might think that such small planes would be simple to fly but they really are not. Especially in certain conditions, even experienced pilots have trouble.

Cecil Edgerton has spent more then 10,000 hours flying. Saturday night the skies were mostly clear and that allowed Edgerton to pilot a Piper Cherokee under visual flight rules -- basically, what his eyes can see.

"You are going to see a reduction in visibility when you have got the sun in your eyes," he said.

The summer haze on the horizon can trick the eyes of an experienced pilot.

Cecil explained that inability to see could become a problem when the pilot can no longer distinguish his altitude or position. In cloudier conditions or in the dark, pilots may not be able to see anything and have to completely rely on instruments to guide the plane.

"Also, when you are in the clouds, you may not realize if your wings are level or if the wings are not level," Edgerton said.

Mechanical equipment can fail. This experienced pilot says there are no guarantees thousands of miles in the air.

"You try to learn from [other's mistakes] and try to find out what happened in accidents," Edgerton said.

In Edgerton's 23 years of flying, he has had four engine failures, but each time he has glided to safety. He advises pilots to retrain to keep their skills sharp and says that experience is the key.


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