In a coroner’s report released last week, low clouds and resulting loss of visibility were cited as major factors in the death of a Whitehorse pilot north of Faro, Yukon on September 2, 2017.

Justin Kolla, 31, was flying one of two Champion 7GCB airplanes from Whitehorse to Russell Creek, located some 60 kms north of Faro. The aircraft crashed on Mount Menzie, roughly 10 kms short of its destination.

Both aircraft were bound for Russell Creek for a three-day hunting trip in what was initially VMC. However, a low ceiling forced the pilots to follow a route over lower terrain. The two pilots lost contact with each other during the flight and, when Kolla didn’t arrive at Russell Creek, the pilot of the other aircraft backtracked and discovered the wreckage of his friend’s plane. An RCMP helicopter dispatched from Faro later that day found Kolla’s body at the crash site.

In her report, Yukon chief coroner Heather Jones wrote “deteriorating weather and pilot disorientation were major factors contributing to this death.” It was determined that the aircraft entered clouds almost two hours into the flight. Evidence suggested that Kolla’s plane impacted the south face of Mount Menzie with power set for cruise flight.

The coroner’s report is available below.

judgment-of-inquiry-kolla