No Rating, Dead Passenger, Acquitted Pilot

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A Kentucky pilot, who federal investigators say lacked a multi-engine rating, was acquitted of wanton endangerment charges indirectly related to the Aug. 1, 1998, crash of the twin-engine Cessna 340 he was flying. One of Kenneth Asher's passengers, Debra Zukhof, drowned after the plane stalled on takeoff from Meigs Field in Chicago and flipped over in Lake Michigan. Michigan authorities decided against prosecuting Asher for the accident. Instead, Kentucky authorities laid the endangerment charges for the Louisville-to-Chicago portion of the flight that preceded the accident. Although Asher insisted he had the multi rating, neither the FAA nor NTSB could find any record of it. A flight instructor named by Asher also denied giving him any multi-engine training. The prosecution cited the Chicago accident as compelling evidence that Asher had put the three passengers in jeopardy in the earlier flight, but the jury apparently didn't buy it. Asher claimed the left engine of the 340 lost power during the takeoff roll in Chicago, but he elected to continue with the takeoff. Both engines ran within specs on test stands after the accident and the NTSB said it was Asher's decision not to use full power for the takeoff that contributed to the accident. The plane ended up in 20 feet of water about 250 feet from the end of the runway.