NTSB Identification: ERA10FA359
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 14, 2010 in North Myrtle Beach, SC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/13/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28RT-201, registration: N2825A
Injuries: 3 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 private pilot held an instrument rating, but lacked recent instrument or night experience. He flew the airplane to a coastal airport uneventfully and subsequently left a message with the operator that he would be returning later than anticipated because he was waiting for convective weather to clear. The pilot received a standard weather briefing from flight service personnel for an instrument flight rules return flight. The weather briefer advised of a convective sigmet along the coast, with the largest cell just west of the departure airport. The briefer recommended either a northeast departure or a southwest departure, to remain clear of the large cell, before flying west on-course to the destination airport. Review of radar data revealed that convective weather, with associated strong intensity echoes, was present about 12 miles west of the departure airport. After takeoff, the airplane turned left about 180 degrees and proceeded northeast along the coast. The radar track then varied between north and northeast until about 5 minutes after takeoff, when the airplane reach a height of 2,300 feet mean sea level and began a right descending turn. The last radar target was recorded about 5 miles northeast of the departure airport, indicating an altitude of 1,800 feet. The recorded weather at the departure airport included a broken ceiling at 1,100 feet, overcast ceiling at 2,000 feet, and a remark of distant lightning west of the airport. Although the official end of civil twilight occurred 1 minute after the accident, the combination of a dark dusk sky, multiple cloud ceilings, precipitation, and the distraction of maneuvering around a large convective cell, would have been challenging for a pilot with limited recent actual instrument experience.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control while maneuvering in instrument meteorological conditions around a thunderstorm. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's lack of recent actual instrument experience.

Full narrative available

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