Cold medicine, faulty instruments led to fatal Lake Superior plane crash


An investigation into a fatal plane crash on Lake Superior has concluded the aircraft was overweight, the instruments faulty, and its German pilot had taken cold medication that causes drowsiness.

That was the finding of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which this week published its final report into the crash a mile off Brighton Beach in Duluth on June 7, 2014, which killed 47-year-old Alexander Obersteg.

KBJR 6 reports that Oberstag, who was traveling to Canada before then flying home to Germany, had an excessive amount of antihistamine in his body at the time of the crash.

The wreckage of the single-engine plane, which had taken off from Duluth International Airport shortly beforehand, was recovered two weeks later in McQuade harbor.

MPR reports that as well as the cold medication – which is banned for flying pilots by the FAA – the NTSB also found that the rear seats of the plane had been replaced with an extra fuel tank, which put it 500 pounds overweight and shifted the plane's center of gravity.

Faulty instruments also showed Oberstag flying straight and level when in fact he was turning, which was difficult for him to notice as he was flying through heavy fog and cloud at the same time as being "impaired" by his medication.

"It is likely that diphenhydramine, which impairs cognitive and psychomotor performance, diminished the pilot’s ability to recognize and manage the erroneous PFD indications," the report said.

Oberstag, who according to an earlier NTSB report had 15 years flying experience with more than 3,000 flight hours, was flying a Lancair IV, a four-seat, kit-built airplane, according to the Federal Aviation Administration,

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