NTSB: Pilot disorientation caused 2021 plane crash that killed Christian diet guru

The NTSB said on Wednesday that pilot orientation was the cause of a crash that killed seven people in Tennessee in 2021. File Photo UPI
The NTSB said on Wednesday that pilot orientation was the cause of a crash that killed seven people in Tennessee in 2021. File Photo UPI | License Photo

March 23 (UPI) -- The National Transportation Safety Board determined that a pilot involved in a 2021 plane crash that killed seven people was probably disoriented at the time of the incident.

The crash killed pilot Joe Lara, his wife Gwen Shamblin Lara, and five others. Shamblin Lara was the founder of the popular suburban Nashville Christian church the Remnant Fellowship and a well-known Christian diet program.


The NTSB said that in a simulation Joe Lara appeared to believe the aircraft was nose-up instead of nose-down while flying through clouds after takeoff from Smyrna, Tenn., to Palm Beach, Fla. The plane eventually crashed into Percy Priest Lake on May 29, 2021.

"Flight track data revealed that after takeoff, the airplane entered the clouds and made a series of heading changes, along with several climbs and descents, before it entered a steep, descending left turn," the NTSB report said. "This type of maneuvering was consistent with the onset of a type of spatial disorientation known as somatogravic illusion."

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Prior to the crash, Joe Lara did not respond to multiple requests from air traffic controllers to adjust the aircraft's position.

The agency said according to its performance study, accelerations associated with the airplane's increasing airspeed were likely perceived by the pilot as the airplane pitching up although it was in a continuous descent.


"This occurred because the pilot was experiencing spatial disorientation and he likely did not effectively use his instrumentation during takeoff and climb," the NTSB said. "As a result of the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation, he likely experienced a high workload managing the flight profile, which would have had a further adverse effect on his performance."

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Joe Lara's logbook showed he completed more than 1,6890 flight hours, including 83 in the Cesna 501 Citation plane involved in the crash. However, Flight Safety International said he did not meet the requirement of seven simulator sessions totaling 14 hours pilot flying time to attempt a rating check ride.

Others killed in the crash were David Martin, Jennifer Martin, Jonathan Walters, Jessica Walters and Brandon Hannah.

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