11:40 PM on Thursday, April 20, 2006 a Cessna U206G aircraft, registration N120HS, crashed while on a precision approach for runway 35 at the Monroe County Airport (BMG), near Bloomington, Indiana killing all five onboard.
The airplane crashed into trees about 1/2-mile from the approach end of runway 35 while the aircraft was conducting a precision instrument approach in night instrument weather. The flight's plotted radar data was consistent with an airplane that was being vectored for an instrument landing system (ILS) approach. The radar track depicted the aircraft flying above glide path and to the right of course until radar contact was lost at 2,000 feet at 2338:34 about two and a half miles from the approach end of the runway. About 2345, the Sheriff responded to telephone calls of a possible airplane crash. A witness described the airplane sounds as an engine acceleration, followed by a thud, and then no more engine sounds were heard. The airport's weather about the time of the accident was: Wind 230 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 1 statute mile; present weather mist; sky condition overcast 100 feet. The published decision height for the approach was 200 feet agl and one-half mile visibility.
The pilot and passengers were identified as students attending Indiana University, the pilot was Georgina Joshi and the passengers were Garth Eppley, Chris Carducci, Robert Samels and Zachary Novak. The five students, best of friends, were accomplished musical performers returning to their graduate program at Indiana University from a rehearsal in Lafayette, Ind.
The parents of these students are searching for answers that caused this plane crash. For five families this year marks the 13th holiday season without loved ones after a tragic 2006 airplane crash without the answers needed for closure. They have spent the better part of the last decade searching for the truth.
Yatish Joshi, father of Georgina. “To make matters worse, the ensuing investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) did not leave us with peace of mind.”
The NTSB issued its Probable Cause Report more than a year later (445 days), ruling the cause of the crash as ‘pilot error’. The report stated the pilot's continued descent below decision height and not maintaining adequate altitude/clearance from the trees while on approach was the probable cause of the crash. Other factors contributed to the crash included night lighting conditions, and the mist.
Mr. Joshi stated, "The report left many questions unanswered." As a result, Joshi sought out technical experts who performed their own investigation, recreated the accident flight, interviewed witnesses, and performed acoustic testing to determine the accident’s cause. The experts realized that many of the witnesses who heard or saw a plane shortly before the accident were describing a different plane than Georgina’s.
Joshi and his experts concluded that the Probable Cause Report was flawed and that the more likely cause(s) of the accident included: (a) a second plane flying below FAA radar attempting to land on a perpendicular runway as Georgina was approaching the airport; and (b) flaws in the airport air traffic control system for night landings.
Joshi submitted his evidence to the NTSB in a Petition for Reconsideration asking the NTSB to reexamine its probable cause determination. In its response, the NTSB dismissed this evidence in part because “none of the  callers reported hearing more than one airplane during the time surrounding the accident.” The NTSB wrote, "After review of the evidence, the petition for reconsideration of the NTSB’s probable cause in connection with the aircraft accident involving a Cessna 206, N120HS, on April 20, 2006, near Bloomington, Indiana, is denied in its entirety."
In 2008, Joshi petitioned the D.C. Circuit Court for review of the NTSB’s denial of his Petition. In court Joshi argued that the NTSB’s investigation and analysis was fundamentally flawed because they refused to “consider relevant factors”, those factors being what Joshi and his investigators had learned when they conducted their own investigation.
What we can do to help bring some peace to these families?
Yatish Joshi, father of Georgina has executive produced a feature length documentary film INVISIBLE SKY (below) about the crash and hopes that it will lead to reform of the NTSB's investigation process. The film tells the story of opera singer and pilot Georgina Joshi (Yatish's daughter), the investigation into the plane crash which killed her and the legal battle with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
There are over 1,000 private airplane crashes in the United States every year, yet the NTSB continues to focus on commercial aviation. They’ve made little to no reforms that would reduce these numbers in the private aviation sphere. INVISIBLE SKY looks to change this by telling Georgina’s story and raising awareness about the agency’s lack of regulation.
So please as you can as possible share this story to all people you know on all social media platforms to support victim families with hashtags #safeskiesforall and #Invisible_Sky, below social media links:
- Gerry Maravilla email - write to the author on behalf of Yatish Joshi, pilot and Executive Producer of the documentary feature film, INVISIBLE SKY.
- INVISIBLE SKY documentary film.