Could Berkeley pilot have been saved?

Kenneth W. Tollett

MONCKS CORNER — Kenneth Tollett evidently tried to crawl away from the wreckage. His private plane had gone over the airport fence and into the trees alongside the runway. He could have survived, maybe. But what needed to happen didn’t.

He wouldn’t be found for two weeks.

The Moncks Corner man’s family is burying him Saturday after a funeral service in Dunlap, Tenn. His death in the horrible wreck at Berkeley County Airport on Oct. 13, and the delay searching for him, were the consequences of too many things gone wrong. He wasn’t found sooner because he didn’t tell anyone that he planned to fly and because he had a tendency to go off by himself, so no one immediately became alarmed.

But there’s more. Tollett, 64, flew in an air space plagued by old emergency equipment giving off so many false signals that the U.S. Air Force no longer monitors the frequency. A lot of private pilots don’t even listen to it unless requested. The $5,000-$6,000 cost of upgrading to more closely monitored satellite equipment discourages a lot of pilots.

He wasn’t found sooner because he didn’t tell anyone that he planned to fly and because he had a tendency to go off by himself, so no one immediately became alarmed.

But there’s more. Like a lot of private pilots, he wasn’t required to file a flight plan or even check in with the office. The emergency equipment designed to back him up isn’t always reliable. And pilots who are supposed to listen for it, often don’t.

The circumstances stacked the odds against him.

Read more in tomorrow’s editions of The Post and Courier.