On October 4, 1982, the pilot started receiving flight instruction. Over the next 6 years, he flew with six different CFIs. During this period, the pilot logged 47 hours, consisting of 46 hours of dual instruction and 1 hour without a CFI on board. The pilot made no entries in his logbook from September 1988 to December 1997.
In December 1997, the pilot enrolled in a training program at Flight
Safety International (FSI), Vero Beach, Florida, to obtain
his private pilot certificate. Between December 1997 and April 1998, the pilot flew about 53 hours, of which 43 were flown
with a CFI on board. The CFI who prepared the pilot for his private pilot checkride stated that the pilot had "very good" flying
skills for his level of experience.
On April 22, 1998, the pilot passed his private pilot flight test. The
designated pilot examiner who administered the checkride
stated that as part of the flight test, the pilot conducted two unusual attitude recoveries. The pilot examiner stated that in both
cases, the pilot recovered the airplane while wearing a hood and referencing the airplane's flight instruments. After receiving his private pilot certificate, the pilot flew solo in his Cessna 182 and received instruction in it by CFIs local to New Jersey. He also received instruction at Million Air, a flight school in New Jersey, and flew their airplanes. During calendar year 1998, the pilot flew approximately 179 hours, including about 65 hours without a CFI on board. On March 12, 1999, the pilot completed the FAA's written airplane instrument examination and received a score of 78 percent.
On April 5, 1999, the pilot returned to FSI to begin an airplane instrument
rating course. During the instrument training, the pilot satisfactorily
completed the first 12 of 25 lesson plans. The pilot's primary CFI during
the instrument training stated that the pilot's progression was normal
and that he grasped all of the basic skills needed to complete the course;
however, the CFI did recall the pilot having difficulty completing lesson
11, which was designed to develop a student's knowledge of very high
frequency omnidirectional radio range (VOR) and nondirectional beacon operations while working with ATC. It took the pilot
four attempts to complete lesson 11 satisfactorily. After two of the attempts, the pilot took a 1-week break. After this break,
the pilot repeated lesson 11 two more times. The CFI stated that the pilot's basic instrument flying skills and simulator work
were excellent. However, the CFI stated that the pilot had trouble managing multiple tasks while flying, which he felt was
normal for the pilot's level of experience.
The pilot attended this training primarily on weekends. During this training, the pilot accumulated 13.3 hours of flight time with a CFI on board. In addition, the pilot logged 16.9 hours of simulator time. The pilot departed from FSI for the last time on April 4, 1999.
The pilot continued to receive flight instruction from CFIs in New Jersey
in his newly purchased Piper Saratoga, the accident
airplane. One CFI flew with the pilot on three occasions. One of the flights was on June 25, 1999, from CDW to MVY. The CFI stated that the departure, en route, and descent portions of the flight were executed in VMC, but an instrument approach
was required into MVY because of a 300-foot overcast ceiling. The CFI requested an instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance
and demonstrated a coupled instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 24. The CFI stated that the pilot performed
the landing, but he had to assist with the rudders because of the pilot's injured ankle. (For additional information about the
pilot's ankle injury, see Section, "Medical and Pathological Information.") The CFI stated that the pilot's aeronautical abilities
and his ability to handle multiple tasks while flying were average for his level of experience.
A second CFI flew with the pilot between May 1998 and July 1999. This
CFI accumulated 39 hours of flight time with the
pilot, including 21 hours of night flight and 0.9 hour flown in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The pilot used this
CFI for instruction on cross-country flights and as a safety pilot. On July 1, 1999, the CFI flew with the pilot in the accident
airplane to MVY. The flight was conducted at night, and IMC prevailed at the airport. The CFI stated that, during the flight, the pilot used and seemed competent with the autopilot. The instructor added that during the flight the pilot was wearing a
nonplaster cast on his leg, which required the CFI to taxi the airplane and assist the pilot with the landing.
The CFI stated that the pilot had the ability to fly the airplane without a visible horizon but may have had difficulty performing additional tasks under such conditions. He also stated that the pilot was not ready for an instrument evaluation as of July 1,1999, and needed additional training. The CFI was not aware of the pilot conducting any flight in the accident airplane without an instructor on board. He also stated that he would not have felt comfortable with the accident pilot conducting night flight operations on a route similar to the one flown on, and in weather conditions similar to those that existed on, the night of the accident. The CFI further stated that he had talked to the pilot on the day of the accident and offered to fly with him on the accident flight. He stated that the accident pilot replied that "he wanted to do it alone." (Note from JFKII.com: Given the evidence of the fuel valve, either this guy is in on it, or JFKjr was planning to kill himself, wanted to kill his wife and sister-in-law, but wanted to spare the flight instructor. What undoubtedly happened is that this guy sent a substitute at the last minute.)
A third CFI flew with the pilot between May 1998 and July 1999. This
CFI accumulated 57 hours of flight time with the pilot,
including 17 hours of night flight and 8 hours flown in IMC. The pilot also used this instructor for instruction on cross-country flights and as a safety pilot. This CFI had conducted a "complex airplane" evaluation on the pilot and signed him off in the accident airplane in May 1999. According to the CFI, on one or two occasions, the airplane's autopilot turned to a heading other than the one selected, which required the autopilot to be disengaged and then reengaged. He stated that it seemed as if the autopilot had independently changed from one navigation mode to another. He also stated that he did not feel that the problem was significant because it only happened once or twice.
The CFI had made six or seven flights to MVY with the pilot in the accident
airplane. The CFI stated that most of the flights
were conducted at night and that, during the flights, the pilot did not have any trouble flying the airplane. The instructor stated
that the pilot was methodical about his flight planning and that he was very cautious about his aviation decision-making. The
CFI stated that the pilot had the capability to conduct a night flight to MVY as long as a visible horizon existed.