NTSB Identification: MIA03FA071.
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Accident occurred Monday, March 03, 2003 in Cedar Key, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/28/2005
Aircraft: Piper PA-28R-201T, registration: N6369C
Injuries: 2 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 flight experienced an in-flight breakup during a VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions. The pilot did not obtain a preflight weather briefing before departure but he did obtain three in-flight weather briefings from the Miami Automated Flight Service Station. During one of the briefings he was provided information about the location of a front that existed along the intended route of flight. About 32 minutes before the accident, the non-instrument rated pilot advised the controller that he was flying in the clouds and was trying to maintain VFR. The pilot was asked if he wanted to obtain an IFR clearance and asked for assistance to avoid the clouds several times; he was advised what radar could and could not depict. About 1 minute before the accident, the controller advised the pilot that he was depicting a heavy weather echo at his twelve o'clock position and 2.5 miles. The pilot responded by stating that he needed assistance. The controller provided a heading for the pilot to fly but the pilot did not acknowledge that transmission. The controller then advised on the frequency for the pilot not to turn that tight and to level the wings. That transmission was also not acknowledged by the pilot. Recorded radar data shows the aircraft descended from 12,600 feet to 8,800 feet MSL, before the flight path entered an area of depicted weather echoes. The flight subsequently went into a left descending turn, reaching a descent rate in excess of 5000 feet per minute. Post-accident examination of the aircraft did not reveal evidence of mechanical malfunction. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed he logged 15 hours actual instrument flight time on 34 flights as pilot-in-command (PIC); the entries for these flights did not contain a signature by a certified flight instructor or safety pilot. He also logged actual instrument flight time as PIC before receiving his private pilot certificate. In the area and time of the accident, no SIGMET's, Convective SIGMET's, or Center Weather Advisories were in effect. The pilot's medical was expired at the time of the accident.

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

The pilot's inadequate in-flight planning/decision by his continued VFR flight into instrument meteorological condition after receiving an in-flight weather advisory. Also causal was his failure to maintain aircraft control, which resulted in flight that exceeded the design limits of the aircraft and resulted in an in-flight breakup. Contributing factors were the pilot's overconfidence in his personal ability, and the failure of the National Weather Service to issue an Airmet to identify IFR conditions for the area of the accident.

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