NTSB Identification: NYC08FA260
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, July 29, 2008 in Highlands, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/19/2009
Aircraft: PIPER PA-23, registration: N1180P
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 professional airline pilot had just purchased the personal airplane, and the accident flight was his first flight in it. Prior to departing on the instrument flight rules flight, the pilot received a weather briefing which included warnings for severe convective activity. While enroute, the pilot was in contact with air traffic control and indicated he was deviating around weather. The controller initially described the radar-observed precipitation correctly to the pilot. However, when the pilot decided to deviate toward a different area of extreme weather, the controller described it only as "a buildup," which was not in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration directives. By the time the pilot elected to reverse course, the airplane was in the vicinity of extreme-levels of precipitation. A ground witness observed the airplane fly into an area of "dark clouds", and then break apart in-flight. Examination of the airplane revealed no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical anomalies.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's improper decision to fly into an area of thunderstorms, which resulted in an in-flight breakup. Contributing to the accident was the air traffic controller's failure to comply with FAA directives regarding issuance of precipitation location and intensity information to the pilot. Full narrative available
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