Federal Aviation Administration registration records show Douglas was only a student pilot.
That would mean navigating the Beechcraft King Air 100 at night, above the clouds and without a clear view of the ground may have exceeded his license qualifications.
Douglas and his passenger, John Smith, 43, died after Douglas’ twin-engine turbo-prop slammed into Swede Mountain three miles northeast of Libby Airport.
According to the FAA website, Douglas received his student pilot’s license on June 9, 2010. There are no records indicating Douglas had a full-fledged pilot’s license.
“It is correct to say the FAA records online indicate that [Douglas] was only a student pilot,” wrote Allen Kenitzer, manager of communications for the FAA in the Northwest Mountain and Alaska Region.
A search of the FAA site found no full pilot certification for Douglas.
A student pilot may not carry passengers, may not fly for hire or for a business and may not fly above clouds or when the ground is not visible.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.
The pilot status of Douglas was news to Ron Denowh, chairman of the board that governs Libby Airport.
“If that’s the case, that really surprises me,” said Denowh, who has known Douglas for about four years. “I hate to hear this. If it’s true, there will probably be a lawsuit.”
Denowh said he has witnessed Douglas fly into Libby many times.
“That plane has had hundreds of operations into Libby,” Denowh said. “From what I understood, he’s been flying all his life.”
Denowh said that as pilots come and go from Libby Airport, there is not a mandatory certification check of a pilot’s license.
“It’s not up to me to check that,” Denowh said. “Carl did a lot of EPS [instrument only] approaches, which is an accomplishment. Normally, you just don’t pick that up.”