Tuesday, April 12, 2016
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
The pilot who crashed his plane on a fog bound Nashville, Tenn. runway in 2013 was drunk and fixated on Taylor Swift, perhaps explaining his fatal and unauthorized flight from Canada to mid-Tennessee.
A report from the National Transportation Safety Board concludes that Michael Callan, 45, of Windsor Canada crashed his rented plane while attempting to land in dense fog.
"Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s mental state, his impairment due to alcohol, and his decision to operate the airplane from Canada to the United States without the owner’s permission and without proper clearances for the flight," the brief report concludes.
The Oct. 29, 2013 crash occurred in the early morning, but the wreckage on a Nashville International Airport runway was not discovered till hours late.
Callan's body was found among the charred and scattered remnants of the Cessna 172R aircraft, the pilot had rented from a Windsor flying club.
"This pilot was not supposed to be in the United States flying to Tennessee," an NTSB record states.
The NTSB investigation noted that Callan had apparently circled the airport for some two hours before making his final fatal approach. He had taken off from Windsor some nine hours earlier on a flight that was supposed to end on Pelee Island on Lake Erie within the Canadian border.
Noting that Callan was not qualified to make an instrument landing, the report states, "the pilot was unaware of the IFR (instrument only) conditions in Nashville until he arrived in the area and that, because he was not instrument rated, he was unable to safely land the airplane with no visual contact with the runway."
Callan's mysterious trip drew widespread attention when officials disclosed that he had listed Taylor Swift as his emergency contact person.
Records gathered by NTSB investigators show that Callan had named Swift on his application to the Windsor Flying Club, the organization that rented him the plane. Swift has stated through her publicist that she did not know Callan.
"He (Callan) had developed a significant interest in a celebrity who lived in Nashville," the NTSB report noted, adding that he also had "a history of repeated convictions for criminal activity."
"Although the medical records did not include a specific psychiatric diagnosis, the pilot’s prior criminal actions and impulsive behavior are consistent with antisocial personality disorder, which likely led to his impetuous decision to fly to Nashville," the NTSB states.
The report cites an August 2012 mental health evaluation of Callan in which "he reported that he had developed a significant interest in a celebrity and had written several letters to her. According to the mental health evaluator, the letters 'have the flavor of stalking.' The celebrity of interest resided in Nashville, Tennessee at the time of the accident."
"Toxicological testing of the pilot’s blood revealed significantly elevated levels of ethanol, indicating that the pilot ingested alcohol before the accident. The alcohol likely further impaired the pilot’s judgment and his ability to fly the airplane safely in IFR (instrument only) conditions," the report adds.
An autopsy conducted by Tennessee authorities following the crash found that Callan's blood alcohol level was .081 percent, over the .080 percent Tennessee legal limit to drive a car. Federal regulations set a .04 percent limit for aircaft operators.
The NTSB examination of the wreckage "found no mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation."