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Pilot, 21, begged Fla. air traffic control to tell his parents he loves them before fatal crash


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A 21-year-old pilot was heard begging for help navigating the skies in poor visibility in Florida – then asking air traffic control to tell his parents that he loved them moments before he crashed and died.

“I don’t think I can hold my altitude without descending,” the young man flying a single-engine Cherokee Piper 180, which he had bought just two weeks earlier, said over the radio, according to audio obtained by WUFT.

“How many miles am I from Gainesville?” he pleaded soon before crashing in a state park there Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m losing altitude,” he told the air traffic controller before asking them to pass on the heart-wrenching message of love to his parents.

The young pilot killed was not formally identified in an initial Federal Aviation Administration report.

However, the doomed plane had been bought just two weeks earlier by Adrien James Valentine, 21, of Melrose, Florida, according to WUFT, who said the young man’s dad hung up the phone when asked about the tragedy.

Kissimmee airport manager Ramon Senorans told the outlet that the plane took off under visual flight rules, or VFR, meaning pilots are required to remain clear of clouds and maintain a minimum of 1,000 feet above ground level.

The pilot was reportedly warned that his destination airport was under instrument flight rules, IFR, meaning flying by visual references is unsafe and must be conducted using navigation instruments.

Moments before takeoff, the controller encouraged him to wait because it appeared that conditions were improving.

“It looks like it’s updating now to be not IFR, showing a few (clouds) at 800 (feet),” the controller said. “So, if you stand by a minute or two we’ll be VFR.”

The pilot took off about three minutes later, according to the outlet.

“It looks like it’s updating now to be not IFR, showing a few (clouds) at 800 (feet),” the controller said. “So, if you stand by a minute or two we’ll be VFR.”

But after encountering poor visibility later, he ended up crashing into the ground at about 300 mph. Rescuers found the wreckage just before sunset Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, the FAA said in a preliminary report only that the plane, whose pilot it did not identify, crashed due to “unknown circumstances.”

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are investigating the accident.

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