Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of JFK, Jr. in a plane crash, a plane that he was piloting. I saw a brief mention of someone claiming it wasn’t an accident and was instead part of a conspiracy against the Kennedys. I found a couple sites on the subject here and here.
Let me address a few points about the second of these. The part about JFK, Jr.’s crash begins with a United Press International report that mentions that he made a radio call to the Martha’s Vineyard airport when he was nearby and that he sounded calm when he made this call. Later on, this call was ignored or denied. Therefore, there must have been a conspiracy.
But we know that initial news reports are quite often unreliable, so there is nothing unusual here. The radio call was from someone else, for example. According to this Wikipedia article, Kennedy had made lots of flights to Martha’s Vineyard airport, but it was in a different plane, a Cessna Skylane 182. The plane that crashed, a Piper Saratoga, was one he had purchased just three months before, and if the personnel at the airport still had the idea that he was flying the Cessna, they might have thought someone else flying a Cessna was him. Here’s what the report from the National Transportation Safety Board said:
The MVY ATC tower tape revealed that, during the period of time from when the accident airplane departed CDW until the tower closed and the recorder was turned off (about 2200), no contact was attempted by the pilot, the call sign of N9253N, or any unknown station.
Naturally, one can claim that this was a lie, but I have no particular reason for thinking so.
Likewise, a person claimed to have seen an explosion in the sky at about the time of the crash, but we should be cautious about such claims. We heard this same thing with the disappearance of the Malaysian plane, but that explosion was somewhere in the Gulf of Thailand (which is part of the South China Sea), while the debris that has been found (in Africa) suggests a crash in the Indian Ocean.
Next comes the claim that the weather was wonderful. The information, however, is that it was rather mixed, with lots of haze. One pilot interviewed talked of being high above the airport at one point and being unable to see it. He thought maybe the entire area had suffered a power outage. While descending, he said he never noticed any clouds or fog, but there was obviously a lot of haze.
Third, in response to the claim that he stalled the plane, this author asserts, “The radar track shows that he was well above stall speed.” Actually, a stall can occur at any speed. More important, here is a description of the “radar track”:
A performance study of the radar data revealed that the target [while traveling east] began a descent from 5,500 feet about 34 miles west of the Martha’s Vineyard airport. The speed during the descent was calculated to be about 160 knots indicated airspeed, and the rate of descent was calculated to have varied between 400 and 800 feet per minute. About 2138, the target began a right turn in a southerly direction. About 30 seconds later, the target stopped its descent at 2,200 feet and began a climb that lasted another 30 seconds. During this period of time, the target stopped the turn, and the airspeed decreased to about 153 KIAS. About 2139, the target leveled off at 2,500 feet and flew in a southeasterly direction. About 50 seconds later, the target entered a left turn and climbed to 2,600 feet. As the target continued in the left turn, it began a descent that reached a rate of about 900 fpm. When the target reached an easterly direction, it stopped turning; its rate of descent remained about 900 fpm. At 2140:15, while still in the descent, the target entered a right turn. As the target’s turn rate increased, its descent rate and airspeed also increased. The target’s descent rate eventually exceeded 4,700 fpm. The target’s last radar position was recorded at 2140:34 at an altitude of 1,100 feet.
This sounds like Kennedy was very confused, and it is consistent with the conclusion that he experienced spatial disorientation at this time.
Like most conspiracy theorists, the author places tremendous credence on initial reports, which are often wrong, and a cherry-picking of data.