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Squawks & HeadlinesLive flight track & map of out of control plane over Gulf of Mexico before crashing

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Live flight track & map of out of control plane over Gulf of Mexico before crashing

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News reports that pilot became incapacitated during flight across the Gulf of Mexico. The plane circled for hours before crashing into the sea. (flightaware.com) More...

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demuss
Marc Musgrove 23
Folks, I know there are a lot of sad stories in aviation that start with "One time there was this doctor in a Baron and blah blah...", but as I knew Dr. Hertzak and flew in the accident airplane on several occasions I have to say that the critical (and insensitive)comments of some posters just don't fit in this instance.

I would place Dr.Hertzak in the top 5 general aviation pilots I have known in terms of his judgement, skills, experience and training. The highest compliment I can pay another pilot is to say "I'd let my family fly with him (or her)." That is certainly how I felt about Dr. Hertzak and I expect most of the other pilots who knew him felt the same way.

In addition, the accident airplane was beautiful, well equipped, and exceptionally well maintained. Dr. Hertzak spared no expense in the maintenance of the airplane and had the services of an expert mechanic with a sterling reputation.

In addition he was a hell of a nice guy around the airport and would help you in any way he could.

It is a tragedy for everyone who knew him.
KathleenFL
KathleenFL 6
Mr. Musgrove, I am so sorry for your loss. I was surprised when I read your comment because when I left this site last night I didn't remember seeing any derogatory comments about the pilot (who would even do that?) yet as I scan down today I saw one. I hope it was only one. Let me apologize to you for that person, it was careless. I am sure that Dr. Hertzak was an exceptional person as well as an exceptional pilot and I can only imagine how many lives will be affected by his passing. I believe the true sentiment on this forum, and I imagine around the world, was frustration that technology could allow us to see what was going to happen and yet we were still powerless to prevent it. I hope you will accept my apology, and please know that you, and the doctor, and all who were, I’m sure, privileged enough to know him are in my prayers. Kathleen – Clearwater, FL
demuss
Marc Musgrove 5
Kathleen, thank you for your kind words. I had not seen him in the past few years but he will be missed. I wasn't really offended by the post but with all the speculation I thought people would be interested to know what kind of a pilot and airplane owner he was.

Some of the people who make posts like the one we are discussing do so without thinking. They don't know the person so it isn't real to them. If their family or friends were involved they wouldn't post things like that.

Others have to find fault with the accident pilot because "there but for the grace of God go I" and if it can happen to a good, safe pilot in a well-maintained airplane it can happen to me. Much easier to call the accident pilot an idiot and assure yourself that "it can't happen to me" rather than face the fact that risk is part of flying.

As far as doctors having a "well-deserved reputation of being lousy pilots" I have heard that kind of talk around airports forever. Sometimes it is true - I have known doctors that didn't seem like very safe pilots to me, but I've known more that were. Dr.Hertzak was one of those.
crpdetail
chip reed 5
Mr Musgrove, I am sorry for your loss. I would not comment on this story until I saw your post.it was extremely hard for me to follow this story when they first posted it because we kinda knew what the outcome would be.we were praying for a miracle but it never happened. We will pray for you and his family and hope they find out what happened with aircraft. As for the derogatory comments those are people that have no life and should be ignored.
God bless Chip. Vero beach, FL
fmp3
Frank Parks 1
Marc, I live in Lafayette, and, of course, this story caught my interest. I heard the story on my car radio as it was circling the gulf. I am under the impression that all was lost and no trace of anything was found. In a case like this, Marc, is heart attack (stroke) best guess scenario or is it an oxygen issue? Please give me some insight. As the plane was circling and I listened on WWL New Orleans, I felt like I knew the man. Very, very sad.
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
Sorry to butt in, the ice on the windows indicates that the plane was depressurized when intercepted by the USAF. At that altitude the pilot would have lost consciousness pretty quickly and painlessly. IIRC the last radio call was made at that altitude when all seemed ok.
fmp3
Frank Parks 1
Ralph, under those circumstances, would an oxygen tank in the cockpit been enough to save the pilot's life? Or does the depressurization of the cabin mean there was no chance for Dr. Hertzak?
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 1
Frank, hypoxia is quite insidious, at first you actually feel euphoric. The only warnings for a depressurized condition is the gauge next to cabin altitude adjuster but it is small and not in front of the pilot. The other warning on those types of aircraft is a light on the annunciator panel. I hope the FAA will review the situation and insist on an audible warning. I had a failure to pressurize event in a King Air and was alerted by an unopened packet of potato chips that burst. The annunciator light is not very eye-catching, and comes on if the cabin altitude exceeds 10,000'. Claude is right about the oxygen mask. They are fitted as standard equipment in those types of aircraft.

Picture of C421 cockpit here : http://www.airliners.net/photo/Cessna-421C-Golden/1107045/L/&sid=38357997895e1f66ad14fbc8539c1f1d
The pressurization controls are on the lower left part of the main instrument panel partially obscured by the yoke. The outflow valve switch is probably on the electrical panel on the left.
sportpilot1
Claude Stokes 1
There are many factors into consideration. with tanks, you must physically place the mask on your face or cznulus in your nose. if your passed out thats not gonna happen. you would need to understand your problem in advance to be able to take action. you must scan the instruments and see the problem before it happens. the standard method of excape fot this probem is to first see that you have a probem, and then reduce throttle and dive the plane to a safe altitude. If your passed out this is not gonna happen.
julianjim
jim garrity 22
I'm not going to second guess what happened, yes it may be like the Payne Stewart accident or any other things that can happen with high altitude flying? My heart and prayers go out to the family and friends of this person.
theschoolofchuck
Sort of eerie seeing all those circles just stop.
bdcheung
Brian Cheung 9
Thoughts and prayers go out to the pilot and his/her family.
wblain
William Blain 5
The pilot was reportedly Dr. Peter Herzak of Slidell, LA.

[This poster has been suspended.]

sportpilot1
Claude Stokes 15
Doctors? Hell Ive seen airline pilots kill themselves needlessly. How can it be relevant of what is your profession? Looks like there was an unknown event occurd causing the circles. Butcher Baker Candlestick maker all the same to me.
JD345
JD345 2
Three ATP's with many many decades of cumulative experience dropped an A330 ass-first into the Atlantic because they managed to lose track of something a seven-year-old playing Flight Simulator could tell you.
WeatherWise
WeatherWise 26
And if he suffered a medical emergency at the controls,that makes him a lousy pilot? What a dumb ass remark.
hotelgolf718
Absolutely agree. What is the relevence of the pilots profession? Doctor, Lawyer, pilot, student. If one is incappacitated and alone, what can one do besides holding on and doing everything and anything possible to maintain airspeed and altitude?
This was a tradgedy, not a fender bender. My thoughts go out to the family and friends of the aviator.
chotiwala
Austin Deppe 4
As much as I agree, there's no need for profanity.
Hypersonic1
Ann Onymous 16
That's out of line, Karl. I'll assume your comment is based on immaturity and lack of experience.
burhed250
burhed250 5
after a comment like that there should be someway to have you banned from the use of a keyboard.
WALLACE24
WALLACE24 1
Whacko remarks sure do increase the banter lol. "Fate is the Hunter" comes to mind in this case.
WALLACE24
WALLACE24 1
See what I mean? They use bogus names and "stir the pot"
THRUSTT
THRUSTT 3
What's your reasoning for that?
dougvc
My CFII/MEI is a doctor and one of the finest pilots I have had the privilege of flying with. Bad form, Karl.
danbushey
Daniel Bushey 4
True, heard that many times.
rsmath
It's more like doctors are rich enough to own aircraft and too busy applying their medical trade to exercise their planes often or stay proficient at flying them.

I remember a doctor around here a few years ago flew his private plane right into the western face of the Sandia Mountains and died.

From reading this thread, there is no doubt in my mind that lack of proficiency wasn't the cause of the crash in this thread.
preacher1
preacher1 2
You probably ought to swing back up to the top and read the comment from someone who knew the Doc. Also, not sure just where on the Sandia Mtns you are talking about, but if you don't pay attention to what you are doing, they can bite anybody in the butt coming out of the Sunport.
THRUSTT
THRUSTT 1
Did you mean lack of proficiency was or wasn't the cause?
MDeC
MDeC 4
RIP Dr. Peter Herzak
Gundah
Matt Walsh 4
It just dropped off the tracking. Very sad!
HIZZHONER
Ed Wagner 4
Very sad if it is what it looks like...any comments about radio communications?
AONeal79
AONeal79 4
I'm curious about this, too, and if it's been spotted.
AONeal79
AONeal79 4
What are the chances that radio communications prior to losing contact will be released? (Bear with me - I'm not a pilot, just an enthusiast.)
Falconus
Falconus 1
I think that they often, if not usually, are released; in fact there's a chance that they were recorded by the public (LIVEATC.net for example) to start with.
meeverett
http://www.abc26.com/wgno-last-communication-with-dr-peter-hertzaks-plane-n48dl-mp3-20120419,0,568739.mp3file

That is allegedly the last comms directly with the pilot. I don't know if anyone has anything later.
dbaker
Daniel Baker 10
FlightAware News:

Plane with Incapacitated Pilot Circles Gulf of Mexico for Hours, Crashes

http://flightaware.com/news/article/Plane-with-Incapacitated-Pilot-Circles-Gulf-of-Mexico-for-Hours-Crashes/164
jkatten
Jeff Katten 6
The flight pattern and airspeed indication is interesting. Although the aircraft was climbing, I wonder if the airspeed changes are fully attributed to the winds aloft? In any case, it appears that towards the end, the descent was fairly consistent and the plane was aligned on a northerly heading. The report from the AP is that the plane landed softly and is floating upright. I wonder if the pilot regained consciousness and was able to successfully ditch?
cli123
Clint Burns 2
I thought about that too, then I noticed that the speeds given are groundspeeds. I figure the winds aloft were from the West, based on the spiral's movement and the FB report from ADDS.gov. However, could it be that the combination of the trim setting, trying to do its job of maintaining airspeed, and the variable pitch props trying to maintain RPM, had something to do with the fairly consistent up and down speed pattern? Would a properly configured plane eventually act this way if there was nobody there to keep things in check? I'm a SEL pilot, so I don't know much about multi engine planes with variable-pitch props, so bear with me if I'm way off the mark!

[This poster has been suspended.]

cli123
Clint Burns 2
Haha, thanx dudeman! I'll check it out... Aircraft Dynamic Modes; Phugoid oscilation/motion, and effects of radar tracking on targets in a turn. I actually dig this stuff!

[This poster has been suspended.]

haroldrutila
Harold Rutila 2
FA displays groundspeed, which is directly affected by winds aloft. The airspeed you see in the cockpit is indicated airspeed, which is not what we see on FlightAware, nor what ATC sees on the scope.
jmcfd2
I am willing to bet he was unconcious due to rapid decompression. The Air Force pilots who intercepted, reported the windows being iced over and could see him passed out in the cockpit. Likely that his pressurization was not set properly and he had no oxygen at those altitudes. He was already at the max service ceiling for a Cessna 421.
wblain
William Blain 3
The plane has been reported to have now sunk, with no sign of survivor.
hugokm01
K Hugo 3
the pressure levels do not fluctuate that much due to diurnal heating and cooling

CommanderAviation
Dixie Barrett 8
With 3 hours notice, why was no rescue operation on location to retrieve the pilot/passengers when the plane made contact with the water?
airplanefreakz
kyle dunst 5
The un-pressurized plane was at 30,000 feet a for a good amount of time. As sad as it is, the pilot's chances aren't very good and its more of a recovery, not rescue operation

[This poster has been suspended.]

mattg353
Jim Scarbough 4
its the only way the windows ice up.
hahlness
Hans Ahlness 1
nope, if you're flying at high altitudes where it's really cold and there's humidity in the airplane, then the windows can ice up even when the pressurization is working perfectly. All depends on how the defrost/heater controls are set, I've had all the windows in planes (piston and turboprop) frost over and only the windshield kept mostly clear due to high defroster.
airjim
jim macke 1
The Cessna 421 is a pressurized aircraft. It lost pressurization en route.
wblain
William Blain 4
Apparently the unconcious pilot failed to notify the Coast Guard what part of the Gulf of Mexico he was going to land ythe plane in once it ran out of fuel.
pilotman415
pilotman415 -3
Willie Blain....In case you're too ignorant to read or comprehend the English language, a man died. Let me repeat, A MAN DIED! What part of that fact do you find so amusing that you feel the need to post an immature, asinine and blatantly stupid comment? Are you that self-centered and lacking in self-respect? Please go away and let the adults in the room have a mature conversation. I'm sure there must be a village close by that is looking for their idiot but hell, they probably wouldn't want you either.
Uisge
DArcy Grant 4
pilotman415...William Blain's comment was in response to Dixie Barrett's comment above, about why there was no rescue operation on site when the plane came down.

At the time of the comment, there was no knowledge of the status of the plane or the pilot, other than the flight had ended in the Gulf of Mexico. There was sarcasm in the answer toward Dixie Barrett, but I don't believe there was any disrespect of the pilot.

This is a difficult situation for all involved, but I think your response to William was uncalled for.
gunfitr
Kurt Anderson 2
You apparently have no idea what it takes to launch a rescue effort in the middle of the gulf of mexico, especially when you have no info. as to where the plane went down.They could just launch aircraft and take the chance of another plane running out of fuel. Then they are looking for two aircraft.
Don't second guess the experts. Just let them do the job they are excellent at performing!
KathleenFL
KathleenFL 2
I think I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to launch a rescue effort in the middle of the ocean, but I agree with Dixie. They had LOTS of info. This website and the news reports of the F-15s seems to show that they knew exactly where this guy was, albeit, 20,000 feet up. I think the point is they had 3 hours advance notice. Couldnt they at least have sent one of those cigarette boats? Sorry, I know that is not how it really works but it cant be often that you get ANY advanced warning of a plane crash.
LearATP
R J 2
Didn't initial reports indicate that 2 F-15s had visual contact with the plane? Could they not report their position? Wasn't the airplane in radar contact with ATC? Couldn't they have just watched FlightAware? Seems like that would the be the easiest of all situations for launching a rescue effort.
sportpilot1
Claude Stokes 2
Kathleen, How was anyone to guess just where and when the plane was going to splash down. It could have been somewhere in a circle of 100 mile diameter or greater.. at over 200 mph if the plane had suddenly stopped circling and went straight line it would have covered 600 miles. If the chase planes stayed with it, they knew exactly where and when, but even if helicopters are standing by waiting for this information, chances of a recovery before it went to the bottom are slim.. Im guessing they did have Helicopters on ready but were helpless to do anything until the plane was actually in the water somewhere. Boats were way to slow to do anything.
KathleenFL
KathleenFL 0
Claude, I learned more last night about exactly what you what you are saying. Someone said USCG cutters top-out at 28 knots? If true, wow. ---- I originally replied to this thread because of the guy who said how hard the plane would be to find, and my point was they found him fine, it’s putting a vessel where he is GOING to be is the problem. I even joked about sending a cigarette boat. It was just so frustrating. I actually live in Clearwater, FL. I almost felt like there was something I myself should be doing. Like, if we can see him on the screen, why cant we just reach out an catch him. ----- Such a loss, and everyone helpless to prevent it.
gunfitr
Kurt Anderson 0
Have you guys ever tried to find a small plane in the middle of the gulf of mexico??
THRUSTT
THRUSTT 1
Nope, but I'm going to drop my toy plane in the bath tub later...
KathleenFL
KathleenFL 0
No, not lately :D And I get how hard it is, I really do. Invisible needle in an invisible haystack hard. We are just saying advanced warning is an advantage in ANY situation. Especially disasters. And it was hours advanced. Just sayin'.
KathleenFL
KathleenFL 1
Somebody eye-balled him enough to report a "soft landing" so I think it fair to say he would be easier to find than say, the guy who crashed in Lake Huron and floated for 17 hours. He was waving his socks because he couldnt be seen.
KathleenFL
KathleenFL -1
I agree with Dixie and RJ and disagree with Kurt. I think I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to launch a rescue effort in the middle of the ocean, and they had LOTS of info. They knew exactly where he was and more importantly they had 3 hours warning. Its not often you get ANY advanced warning of a plane crash.
jfryan
Jerry Ryan 3
Ok.. correct me if I'm wrong here.. but the track from where things went wrong is a couple hundred miles from where the track stopped.. You have USCG air stations at NOLA, Mobile, Biloxi & St. Pete.. Given the speed of a CG cutter.. even with 3 hrs notice, a newer cutter has a speed of 28kts it's still going to take several hours to get to where he went down. If they had sent one from NOLA, by the time they got to his first position, he would have been 200 miles East.. Send it out from Mobile or Biloxi, and they'd still be chasing him. All they knew is he was going to go down, but as you see by the track, it's not like he stayed in one place. The USCG has been doing this for a very long time, so I don't think it's fair for anyone here to second guess their tactics. We'd all like things to have a happy ending, but there were just too many variables. Even with the F-15's watching.. not like they could do anything except say yep.. the plane is still moving... Even the Jayhawk helo's have a range of only 700 miles.. if they would have sent one from Clearwater before he actually went down, by the time they waited for him to crash, try to make a recovery & head back, they wouldn't have had much fuel reserve left. As much as it sucks, sometimes that's how things have to be done. Condolences to the pilot's family.
sportpilot1
Claude Stokes 1
Well said Jerry. With the plane still in the air even if it was 5 hours, how could anyone know exactly where it will splash down, and at what time? If the chase planes stayed with it, all they know is where it is at the moment. No clue where it will go next. Its the basic Heisenberg principal.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Jerry, you are pretty much on target. According to one of the links above, resources were positioned and his location was pinpointed both on FA and by the F-16's but as you say, that is where he was. They can anticipate splashdown and I am sure they did their best, but in this case, it just didn't happen.
KathleenFL
KathleenFL -1
A cutter has a top speed of 28 knots? I had no idea. That explains a lot.
-
My condolences also to the pilots friends and family. I was just arguing with the guy up above who was going on about how hard it would be to find someone in the ocean and my point was, finding him was not the problem. Getting someone to the right place at the right time is the problem, which you explained very clearly. Thanks.
KathleenFL
KathleenFL 1
It's just really a sad story.
jfryan
Jerry Ryan 2
Indeed.. the only consolation would be hopefully whatever it was that happened to him, it happened quick while he was doing something he loved, and also that there was no loss of life on the ground - if he would have been over land.....
msvmaier
msvmaier 4
Off color remarks by pilots are unacceptable in this forum. Huffington is the place to go make comments when you have no idea what you are talking about. How about we learn what we can from this and send our best thoughts to the Hertzaks?
mikejpete
Quite agree with you. It sickens me whenever I read comments from stupid ignorant people especially on an aviation website.
TXCAVU
Karl Schneider has been reported before for both disrespectful postings and foul language. Sadly he focuses his jabs at expired aviators and usually interjects commentary regarding his self proclaimed proficiency. None of this is professional, informational or aviation worthy. It is reportable to FlightAware and they will respond to any complaint. Rants are in multiple sites on Google under Broken Arrow, OK.
msvmaier
msvmaier 2
Interesting. Karl's arrogant attitude id exactly what gets people hurt. If he actually knows how to fly an airplane, I hope he has good liability insurance.
mschacht44
Mike Schacht 2
The story is on CNN right now.
aevins
Alex Evins 2
Indeed. Quite literally watching a disaster in the making for the last 30 or so. Thought and prayers.
eagle763
John Hale 2
Yep this sucks. Looks like it did a cork screw into the water
jmssuperman
jmssuperman 2
Yeah, no assumptions, but decompression seems to be a strong possibility.
Airbus4eva
Very sad indeed. Thoughts and prayers for the family.
MakoTiburon
MakoTiburon 2
Very sad. Likely lost pressurization at FL270. Noticed that plane hasnt flown (IFR anyway) in almost four months. When you let a 30-year old complex aircraft sit around for four months without 'stretching its legs', they tend to develop some 'squawks'. Thoughts and prayers to the pilot, his/her family members and to those in the rescue/recovery effort.
floatplaneS7
floatplaneS7 2
Topherism
Topherism 2
Question about flight path: the turns are left-handed until about 11:45 when they straighten out and then switch to right-handed. This is also about the time that the decent rate increases. Would it be possible this is due to one engine losing fuel before the other (probably the starboard engine)?
almaa
Alma arseneau 2
Yes very stupid what they said
on CNN
To bad for the guy
japollard
japollard 2
This is a tragic event. Obviously, Dr. Hertzak had no more to do with causing the crash if his aircraft than Payne Stewart had with his...our prayers to his family.
tahirzia
Tahir Zia 2
I feel very sorry about that crash...my all prayers for every one...god bless them all
aerobat3
I am a CFII, MEI, ATP. And an MD. I have over 100 successful sign-offs.
Karl Schneider is a moron.
mikejpete
Not likely as the A/C climbed and maintained height a number of times. Impossible to do in a C421 at those altitudes. Also the A/C was reported as being full of fuel when it departed with a few hours of endurance left.
sportpilot1
Claude Stokes 2
A fuel imbalance, or asymetrical engine thrust can cause a turns, while the autopilot maintains altitude.. There are many possiblilties to what happened including what happened to the autopilot heading mode that allowed the turns. If your crusing along in altitude/heading mode and die, the plane will continue to fly straight on till the fuel runs out.
mikejpete
Should have added on one engine.
seankreilly
seankreilly 5
My uneducated guess is that the disoriented pilot first kept hitting "DIRECT TO" some fix in the gulf, as first 4 circles are all hit the same point. Then, he managed to hit the CWS button, capturing a nose-level attitude and a 5-degree bank. plane flies in circles, drifting east with the wind. The altitude gradually drifts up as the plane gets lighter (holding the same pitch angle) Eventually, it runs out of gas, and the plane holds its pitch angle and glides in slower, smaller circles to the water. Just a guess though :)
haroldrutila
Harold Rutila 2
Very sad. What could have caused that sort of track, even with an incapacitated pilot? Engine failure?
n201euszent
God speed to the USCG assets in this SAR case...
AONeal79
AONeal79 0
Also, what would cause the windows to appear iced/fogged over?
Salexanp
Loss of cabin pressure due to a leak somewhere within the pressure vessel will allow the cabin altitude to climb to an unsafe altitude, pretty much anything above 8000 ft MSL during the day. At this altitude and lack of pressure, the lungs cannot absorb oxygen fast enough to support consciencness. This is the definition of hypoxia. Prolonged exposure equals death.
Decibel
Jim Nasby 3
Time of day affects hypoxia? I hadn't heard that before...

I've experienced mild hypoxia once, and it's disturbing how it can come on with little warning.
bovineone
Jeff Lawson 4
Although hypoxia affects the eyes in the daytime as well as at night, the results during the day are usually not as noticable below 10,000 feet. -- http://navyaviation.tpub.com/14020/css/14020_141.htm
haroldrutila
Harold Rutila 1
I suppose decompression, but I really have no idea.
mschacht44
Mike Schacht -2
Slumped over the controls?
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 1
Firstly RIP and condolences to the bereaved.
I was alerted to a failure to pressurize in a King Air by a packet of potato chips (crisps in the UK ) that burst going through 16,000' for a final FL210. IIRC the only warning is a yellow light on the annunciator panel. I've also flown the 421, max FL260, but don't remember what warnings are presented. Always carry an unopened packet of potato chips with you, it may save your life.
covingtonmedical
Peter was a friend and he loved to fly, We talked for hours about his trips to florida , Vail, and other places. He enjoyed the flights as much as I love boat trips. We compaired our hobbys that way. It was much more fun than talking about medical devices which is how we became friends. I know he followed all the rules because he was very precise. I will miss visiting with him and I was shocked to hear of his accident. He was doing something he loved. Rest in peace peter.
RobertRichards
Really sad.....here's hoping that investigators can find some answers
kettler
karl kettler 1
What I can't understand is why didn't the Coast Guard monitor his flight with a helicpter and para-medics on board and launch them on the crash site the second the plane hit the water? Seems to me there is some incompetence to answer for!!
rwm5001
Did they find the wreakage yet?
huskyman
Jim Taylor 1
It is VERY sad. Noting the info on the Flightaware site, it says it was a 421, not a Baron. See the "miles planned" vs "miles flown" really puts it in perspective. 27,000 ft is mighty high for a 421 w/ only a 5.0 psi differential.

In any event, it is a sad day for all of us in GA.
onceastudentpilot
tim mitchell 1
Thoughts and prayers go out to his family...I also pray that he wasn't coherent enough to actually suffer through the descent that took him into the drink.
stevee24
My deepest sympathies to Dr. Hertzak's family and friends. It's a terrible thing that happened.
vettdvr
James Corkern 1
I agree with Marc and all he said. I also knew Dr H. IF he had a cabin pressure failure @ FL270 and it was an explosive decompression the TCU would be about 30 seconds. If he had O2 by his seat it might have taken him this much time to find it not expecting the decompression. Even if there were a co-pilot the outcome may have been no difference. Nothing will be known until the investigation. The flt pattern IMO appears the plane was trimmed up auto pilot off and flew as if no one was flying. At fuel exhaustion one engine may have quit before the other causing the tight circle pattern just before the water landing/impact. Speeds approached 90 knots from the air tracker so the plane slowed siginficantly from cruise power settings. My prayers for Dr H and his family.
macnicol
James Nicol 1
R.I.P. Dr. Peter Hertza. You've flown your final flight plan.

BTW, some pretty stupid comments on the CNN article site

http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/19/pilot-unresponsive-as-small-plane-circles-above-gulf/#comments
JoshIII
Josh III 1
Where did this detailed radar track come from? Must have been released from FAA?
gotchman
Craig Harris 1
Wouldn't the autopilot be engaged on a long flight like this? I would have expected it to just fly in a straight line until fuel ran out.
THRUSTT
THRUSTT 1
I notice there are several like comments, word for word,Tribal Fusion is one of the commenters. Is that a Flightaware error, or are these guys the same person???
wthomp1476
Iced glass indicates the craft lost cabin pressure, and the pilot lost consiousness..His fate was sealed..He will be greatly missed
Salexanp
Yes, during the day the atmospheric pressure is usually higher and therefore you can climb higher before the effects of hypoxia start to set in. At night as the atmosphere cools down, pressure drops and the need for supplemental oxygen or cabin pressurization drops from about 10,000ft MSL to about 5,000 ft. MSL.
rwm5001
Mr. Molnar, do u work out of McCarran?
Kojak3625
Kojak3625 1
My thoughts are with his family. Stupid people make stupid remarks!
swiese
Sean Wiese 1
Very sad. Looks like he peaked at 33,000. With that kind of rapid decent it suprises me that he was able to make such an intact ditch. I would find it interesting to hear from the F-15 pilots more. Potentially a survivable incident and quite a bit of time. No coast gaurd dispatched?
david1220
David Calejo 1
Authorities are currently tracking the planes last point for a lookout where they will grab the airplane from underwater
rchiles90
Rob Chiles 1
Very sad indeed - condolences to the family. Thanks to flightaware for allowing us to see the track.
juliePENDERGAST
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dr Hertzak's family and friends; he was a fine physician and gentle soul--he will be greatly missed.
rwm5001
No TV, Have they retrived the plane out of the water, and if so they get the Doc out?
smokinghole
smokinghole 1
Shows last IFR flight in that plane back in 2011. Fly 500 miles over water by yourself. Not wise... Couldn't pay a babysitter to sit your right seat?

RIP Doc
Terratalk
Terra Talk 1
My sympathies to Dr. Hertzak family; this was a unfortunate event that shouldn't happen to anyone. Also, thank you Mr. Corkern for your interesting explanation for the circle pattern. Since I'm not a pilot (my dad was the pilot, I was the EMT) I was intrigued as to what caused it (especially the right turn, then the left circles) and my first thought was O2 deprivation. I notice that you feel that the auto pilot was disengaged ... couldn't an auto pilot be engaged in such a way to cause circles?
WALLACE24
WALLACE24 1
Are you out of Pah?
hugokm01
K Hugo 1
the pressure levels do not fluctuate that much do to diurnal heating and cooling
danbushey
Daniel Bushey 1
I noticed that also. I would PREFFER it would be an "glitch". In any case, if you and I noticed, there are other members having noticed also. Regards.
sportpilot1
Claude Stokes 1
I believe the plane had autopilot. From departure the track is a straight line direct to Sarasota, fl. to me that indicates using GPS with an autopilot. Usually if you hand fly the plane the sensitivity of flight amware will show a squiggley track line aa the pilot wanders about on heading. and altitude.. I am wondering what happened with the autopilot myself if in fact he was using it. The autopilot wont make a turn unless the pilot commands it, or a loss of signal from the GPS if its in GPS mode.
bovineone
Jeff Lawson 1
All flight data on FlightAware can be from a variety of sources, including but not limited to the FAA -- http://flightaware.com/about/faq.rvt#data
mandm6
mandm6 1
I've been a member here for about 6yrs and usually just read the post and either shake my head or think,"Right on the money". All I can say is, James, You and Marc are Right on the money. Nice to read post by people that seem well informed on what they are talking about but also have compassion for their fellow man. Opps and ladies. Know a lot of women pilots so I can't leave them out.
TXCAVU
Yes and considering the location of this flight, deep Gulf waters, the Coast Guard could not get a crane out to the exact crash location before the aircraft finally sunk. This is why all efforts to recover have been called off.
THRUSTT
THRUSTT 1
KARL KETTLER POSTED THIS SAME COMMENT 1 HOUR AGO!!! WHAT'S GOING ON HERE???
WALLACE24
WALLACE24 1
Inquiring minds want to know!!!!
vaser342
oh my god i hope the pilot can make it alive here in louisina we are praying for
727clamshell
Clam Shell 1
Dear God.
kaidbey
IHSAN KAIDBEY 1
I'm no pilot, but am fascinated by flying, at 55 I still marvel on how a plane the size of a building can actually take into the air ! I agree with Charles, it is sort of sad to see those loops end there. May he rest in peace, whoever he was ( doctor or not !)
elgrullon
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Small plane crashes into Gulf of Mexico after pilot becomes unresponsive

May he or she rest in peace. Prayers to their families.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/04/19/f-15s-follow-small-plane-off-florida-after-pilot-becomes-unresponsive/?test=latestnews
mikejpete
Some very stupid comments from ignorant people on that FoxNews article.

Sad day thoughts to pilot's family.
AONeal79
AONeal79 4
99% of online comments are totally ignorant. Except here, of course :)
danbushey
Daniel Bushey 2
I agree!!
macnicol
James Nicol 2
Someone's bias is showing.

The Fox News Article was brief and accurate according to the info available at the time.

As far as the comments are concerned, these are from people of all political and intelligence persuasions just like here at FlightAware. Fair and Balanced.

Some you agree with, some you don't, and some you wonder what they were smoking, drinking, etc. to come up with what they did!
howej011
Joseph Howes -2
thats fox for you
R.I.P for the man/woman and passengers and the family(s)
HunterTS4
Toby Sharp -3
that's Fox for ya
howej011
Joseph Howes 0
that is what i said about fox why do you put it again
JaredMaurtua
Jared Maurtua 0
What happened to him? Poor guy.
onsitemain
tony boyd 0
wow RIP never fly alone over the ocean
gunfitr
Kurt Anderson 0
None of us can second guess what happened in that cockpit. I doubt there would be flight recorder in that plane so unless it is found and the experts work it over it is only guess work.
Alex13
Alejandro S 0
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

[UPDATED]: Plane Crashes In Gulf Of Mexico After Pilot Became Unresponsive

According to the FAA, it lost contact with an airplane about 133 miles off the southwest coast of Saint Petersburg Florida after its pilot was unresponsive.

http://www.thefloridanewsjournal.com/2012/04/19/plane-crashes-gulf-mexico-after-pilot-became-unresponsive
danbushey
Daniel Bushey 0
Prayers for Pilot, downed small Aircraft, in Gulf of Mexico.

Although NOT an experienced Pilot nor seaman, as per Flightaware Latitude and Longitude info, I believe the "Out of Control small aircraft went-down into the Gulf, in the area known as MIDDLE GROOUNDS. there are to my knowledge, two (2) Weather Buoys in the area. To the best of my ability, I presume the aurcraft went-down EAST of the DEEP WATER, and on SHELF, by unknown nautical miles. And SOUTH of Northernly weather Buoy, and West, Southwest, of Southernly Weather Buoy.

No doubt, USCG has last known Lat. and Long. readings.

Prayers, to Pilot, and ALL Rescuers.

Regards, Dan
frfly172
Its unfortunate that the news media had already guessed what happened to the pilot even before he went in.May the pilot rest in peace his thoughts will never be known.
shredjet
Steven Seshun 0
Gosh. That is erie looking at the flight path and circles on here. I noticed there was a lien on the aircraft from 2007 to 2010 for hanger dues, but whether or not he actually owed them or had to pay them I do not know of course. The doctor owned it since about 1996 I believe. His name sounds so familiar too. I pray you are resting in peace Doc. May your family and friends be encouraged at this time.
danbushey
Daniel Bushey 2
Two NORAD jets, watched Cessna spiral dfoward, crash into Gulf. NORAD Pilots reported "Iced cockpit windows, Pilot slumped". No further Broadcast news medida news as at this time. USCG Assets was enroute at time of NORAD Pilots report.No further reports from news media.

Prayers.
anto648
Antoine Nicoli -1
Bonjour

Que s'est il passé exactement?
SkyBaby2
Kira Andreola -1
Is it confirmed he died?
mattnyc
Matt Molnar -1
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Gulf of Mexico Plane Crash May Have Been Caused by Pressurization Problems, Early Evidence Indicates

While it will take months or years to find a definitive cause of the crash of the Cessna 421 that went down in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, initial evidence may indicate that the pilot lost consciousness due to pressurization issues.

http://www.nycaviation.com/2012/04/gulf-of-mexico-plane-crash-may-have-been-caused-by-pressurization-problems-early-evidence-indicates/
sparkie624
sparkie624 -1
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Small plane with unresponsive pilot crashes into Gulf of Mexico

A small plane with an unresponsive pilot crashed in the central Gulf of Mexico on Thursday after circling above the ocean for more than two hours, but it appeared intact after hitting the water, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.

The tail of the twin-engine Cessna 421 remained sticking out of the Gulf about 120 miles west of Tampa, Florida, after it went down at 12:08 p.m. ET, said Chief Petty Officer John Edwards, a Coast Guard spokesman. The crew of a Coast Guard search-and-rescue plane watched as the Cessna made what appeared to be a soft landing, Edwards said.


http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/19/us/gulf-aircraft-search/index.html?eref=rss_topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_topstories+%28RSS%3A+Top+Stories%29

[This poster has been suspended.]

martyj19
Marty Jack 2
If you don't touch the power setting, the airplane will stay at a constant pitch angle. This can be adjusted by a device on the aileron called a "trim tab". If there is more power than needed for level flight at that pitch attitude, the airplane will climb. If less, it will descend.

Pitch is the angle that the airplane makes with the ground in its direction of travel. If you think of when you have seen a jet taking off, it is at about a 15 degree nose up pitch.
sportpilot1
Claude Stokes 1
I just cannot imagine a C421 that does not have a functioning autopilot. That would be my NO 1 item on the MEL.
martyj19
Marty Jack 1
Having now noted that you hold a Commercial certificate, I apologize for the response. I see that the question was probably rhetorical about "pitch angle". Maybe this (somewhat oversimplified explanation) will help someone with less experience understand how an airplane can fly for that long without being actively steered.
KathleenFL
KathleenFL 1
Marty I liked your explanation of pitch angle. I understood it and I dont have any kind of certificate. Matter of fact, I know so little about flying, I wasnt wondering how an airplane could fly for that long without being steered. I assumed it was on auto-pilot. Now I am guessing that auto-pilot may be only for commercial aircraft?
martyj19
Marty Jack 1
Thanks for the kind words.

Any airplane can have an autopilot, and this one is huge compared to most private aircraft, so almost certainly does. The thing it will almost certainly not have that would be helpful to an accident investigator is a flight recorder.
KathleenFL
KathleenFL 1
Hey Marty, on the flight path page it says "distance", planned and actual, it says 587 sm. What is the sm? (or the s, I assume the m is miles but I was expecting nautical miles).
martyj19
Marty Jack 2
sm is statute miles, the regular 5280 feet kind. nm is nautical miles, 6080 feet. Why FlightAware would quote the distance in sm is unknown to me, since we normally plan everything in nm.
KathleenFL
KathleenFL 2
Thanks Marty. I figured if nautical miles is good enough for the shuttle, it would be good enough for everyday ordinary aircraft :o)

[This poster has been suspended.]

martyj19
Marty Jack 1
Oh crap I wrote aileron trim. Let's make that elevator trim. I really should take more time with these comments. For the non-pilots, the elevator is the control surface on the horizontal tail.
falcon771
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Plane Tracked by F-16s Crashes

An unresponsive twin-engine plane flying erratically over the Gulf of Mexico and tracked by the Air Force has crashed.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/plane-tracked-u-government-crashes-165627257.html
jimlandon
Jim Landon -1
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Small plane runs out of fuel, spirals into Gulf of Mexico after pilot 'incapacitated'

A small plane flew in circles for several hours before running out of fuel



http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/04/19/f-15s-follow-small-plane-off-florida-after-pilot-becomes-unresponsive/