Unfortunately, this story seems to hold the answer:
WEST GARDINER Federal investigators continued working Monday to determine why a seasoned pilot lost control of her jet and crashed soon after taking off from Augusta.
Jeanette Symons, 45, a prominent tech-industry entrepreneur from Steamboat Springs, Colo., and her 10-year-old son, Balan, died Friday when the six-seat Cessna Citation went down in the woods of West Gardiner just after 6 p.m.
Authorities have declined to confirm the victims’ identities. But a spokeswoman for Symons’ California company, Industrious Kid, a startup social networking Web site for children, confirmed during the weekend that her employer and the boy had been killed in the accident.
As a mix of snow, ice and rain fell Friday, Symons took off from the Augusta State Airport. Soon after, air-traffic control in Portland reported receiving a call from her, saying she had an emergency involving one of the three “attitude indicators” on the plane.
Ivan Grau of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida said an attitude indicator is a “primary instrument” telling a pilot whether the plane is level relative to the horizon. But he said pilots are trained to fly without them.
While the airport was open Friday evening, Colgan Air Inc., a commercial airline that operates US Airways Express flights into and out of Augusta, grounded its planes after 4:30 p.m., citing the weather. On Monday, aviation experts said it was up to Symons, not airport officials, to decide whether it was safe to take off.
“It will always be the pilot’s decision” as long as an airport is open, said Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. “Airport managers do not have the same training as a pilot does to make that call.”
No matter the weather, a pilot must run through a safety checklist before takeoff, Boyer said. Some things, such as checking the wings for ice, are universal, he said. “Planes with contaminated wings usually don’t leave the runway.”
Symons’ aircraft sat outdoors before the accident. Bill Perry of Maine Instrument Flight at the Augusta airport said Symons called and asked for her jet to be moved into a hangar Friday morning. The plane was moved into a hangar that is contracted to Colgan Air.
“We made it quite clear to her that when (Colgan’s plane) would go in, her plane would have to come out,” Perry said. When the company grounded its flights Friday afternoon, Symons’ jet was taken out of the hangar.
Maine Instrument Flight Chief Pilot David Smith said he saw Symons and Balan before they took off at 5:30 p.m. Friday. She appeared to be in a hurry, he said, and declined to have her plane de-iced by the staff. “It was clear there was ice on everything” at the time, Perry said.
She also neglected to turn on the airport’s field lights – standard procedure for a pilot taking off from an airport without an air-traffic control tower, such as Augusta. Pilots can switch the lights on through a radio frequency, Perry said.
Before finding the runway, which had not been plowed, Symons ran the plane through a ditch in a field on airport property, Perry said.
Tim Donovan, vice president of marketing of Industrious Kid, said Symons had been flying for 15 to 20 years and “probably logged more hours than a commercial pilot.”