While the report concluded the accident at the airport in Smyrna, Tennessee, was the result of pilot error — investigators said Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss transitioned into the Split-S maneuver at less than 3,200 feet rather than above 3,500 feet and at 184 knots rather than at less than 135 knots — it also hinted that cloud coverage may have contributed to the tragedy, as Seck reported:
Weather may have played a role in Kuss’ deviation from the planned maneuver sequence, however. Investigators found there were “multiple billowing clouds” near the end of the runway as Kuss took off.
In one of the few indications of a problem leading up to the tragedy, Kuss radioed Navy. Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, the lead solo, asking him if he thought it was possible to complete the high-performance climb with the clouds so near the projected flight path. Chamberlain responded that, yes, he thought Kuss could make it.
If you haven’t already, check out her full report on the investigation on Military.com. It’s full of new details about the tragic accident.
Below is the footage that circulated on social media of the crash: