Whatever went wrong, it was more than Kennedy could handle. New radar data released Monday showed that the plane dropped toward the water at 4,700 feet a minute — 10 times faster than the normal rate of descent. Investigators aren’t sure what that says about the cause of the crash, other than that the problem was severe, and the plane was out of control. To TIME aviation correspondent Jerry Hannifin, that final plummet is a sign that the pilot simply took on more than he was qualified for. "Anyone who has flown regularly on the East Coast in summer knows that the horizon can disappear completely in the haze," says Hannifin. One scenario: Kennedy began a normal turn, and then lost sight of the horizon. If he made the turn too tight, he could have lost lift. From there it would be straight down, and fast. "The poor guy wasn’t rated for an instrument flight," says Hannifin. "When the weather got beyond his capability and he could no longer see the horizon or the shoreline, it was his command responsibility to turn back." Too late.
Finally, the questions in the crash of John Kennedy Jr.'s plane may be closer to answers. On Wednesday morning the Associated Press reported that the wreckage of Kennedy's Piper Saratoga had been located, with Kennedy's body still aboard, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Mass. "They've got the fuselage and John Kennedy's in it," a high-level government source said. Still unknown: the locations of Kennedy's wife, Carolyn Bessette, and her sister Lauren -- and the cause of the crash. One possible clue: CNN reported late Tuesday that mechanics had discovered -– and corrected -– a propeller problem in Kennedy's plane two years ago. Or was the crash a simple mistake by a pilot fighting poor visibility conditions?