NTSB Identification: MIA04FA100.
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Accident occurred Monday, June 21, 2004 in Baker, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/30/2006
Aircraft: Piper PA-23-250, registration: N54134
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 crew were on a flight from Marianna, Florida, to Lockhart, Texas when they encountered level 4 thunderstorms at about 8,000 feet altitude, in the vicinity of the Crestview (KCEW) VOR, near Baker, Florida and then they crashed. The wreckage was dispersed over an approximate nineteen-acre area to the left and right of a line drawn between the area where the last radar contact had occurred and the main wreckage site. The main wreckage site, which comprised of the fuselage, was located in a wooded area approximately 6.7 miles west of the Bob Sikes Airport, Crestview, FL. The overall debris path was approximately .4 miles long on a northwest heading and the initial pieces along the path were the vertical fin, rudder, and left aileron. There was no evidence of a post crash fire in the area of the main wreckage site or at any of the secondary locations and no evidence or any patterns like those typically associated with an in-flight fire were identified. Level 4 weather returns had been on either side of the airplane. The airplane was about 3.7 miles due west of KCEW, and had begun a right turn to a course of about 260 degrees. At 1357:40, the airplane was about 3.7 miles southeast of the Crestview VORTAC, at 8,000 feet, and on a course of about 285 degrees. The pilot of the accident airplane requested "a course of one eighty to the left for weather". North Approach replied "is that a one eight zero heading?" The pilot responded "one eight zero," and North Approach approved the request. The airplane was entering the eastern edge of an area of Level 4 returns. At 1358:01, the airplane began a descent and a turn to the left. The last radar target was received at 1358:54, about 53 seconds after initiation of the turn, and all radar returns in the area depicted Level 4 weather activity at the time when air traffic control (ATC) lost communications with the accident airplane. According to the North Approach Radar Controller, who was communicating with the airplane, his workload was moderate on the day of the accident, with about four or five aircraft and that he had been on position for about two to three minutes when the pilot contacted him. The controller stated that he would normally advise a pilot of observed weather returns, but did not do so for the accident airplane or other pilots in the same general area. He said he did not issue a weather advisory to the accident airplane because in his opinion, "the pilot was seeing everything out there [and] telling [me] what he needed to do". Examination of the airframe, engines and flight controls did not reveal any preaccident failures or malfunction to any airplane systems.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The flight crew's inadvertent flight into thunderstorms resulting in the design limits of the airplane being exceeded, loss of aircraft control and subsequent in-flight breakup. A factor in the accident was the lack of required advisory by ATC about a radar displayed area of weather echoes. Full narrative available
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