NTSB Identification: FTW00FAMS1.
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Accident occurred Monday, April 03, 2000 in GULF OF MEXICO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/17/2001
Aircraft: Beech M35, registration: N9778R
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The single-engine airplane is presumed destroyed following an uncontrolled descent into the Gulf of Mexico. The instrument rated private pilot, sole occupant, is presumed fatal. The pilot purchased the airplane 10 days prior to the accident and received dual instruction, which included an instrument competency check, 2 days prior to the accident. The flight instructor reported that no aircraft discrepancies were noted during the dual instructional flights. Subsequently, the cross-country flight departed Florida for Texas. Following a refueling stop in Alabama, the flight diverted to Louisiana, due to en route weather. On the morning of the accident, the pilot obtained a preflight weather briefing. Night instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed for the flight, and the pilot filed an IFR flight plan. The clearance delivery controller told the pilot about a line of thunderstorms crossing his route of flight and confirmed that the pilot had received all the weather updates from flight service. When the flight was cleared for takeoff, the controller confirmed that the airplane was not equipped with weather detection/avoidance equipment. At an en route altitude of 4,000 feet msl, the airplane deviated to a heading of 220 degrees where the flight path paralleled the line of thunderstorms. Subsequently, the pilot reported 'light to moderate chop.' The controller informed the pilot that a convective sigmet had been issued for an 'area of severe thunderstorms moving from two four zero at thirty knots tops above flight level four five zero tornados hail to two inches and wind gust to sixty knots' to which the pilot replied 'what in the world am I doing out here then.' The pilot requested that the controller keep the airplane out of the weather. The controller informed the pilot that the he would have to take at 'least two thirty heading for the next fifty miles or so before you could turn west bound.' Subsequently, the pilot replied, 'okay we are in moderate chop go ahead if you keep us out of the muck we are heading two three zero right now.' At 0619:38, the flight was cleared to a heading of 240 degrees. At 0621:35, the pilot requested 'you got anything better.' At 0621:41, the pilot told the controller 'we are pretty severe right now.' Review of radar track data for the airplane revealed that about 0620, there were excursions in the airplane's altitude and airspeed consistent with flight into moderate to severe turbulence. At 0621:44, the controller informed the pilot that he could turn the airplane west to a heading of 270 degrees. At 0624:05, radio and radar contact were lost. Houston Center tracked the descending target to 2,700 feet at a position approximately 20 nautical miles offshore southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana. An extensive sea and air search for the airplane was unsuccessful.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

the pilot's continued flight of the airplane into known adverse weather conditions resulting in the pilot's loss of control of the aircraft. Contributing factors were the severe turbulence and windshear.

Full narrative available

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