NTSB Identification: ERA11FA376
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, July 01, 2011 in Yabucoa, PR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/28/2012
Aircraft: CESSNA A185F, registration: N8436Q
Injuries: 5 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.

Shortly after departure for a visual flight rules cross-country flight over ocean waters, the airplane encountered instrument meteorological conditions associated with a fast moving tropical wave. Examination of air traffic control radar data revealed that the airplane never reached a steady cruise state for any significant amount of time, and its ground track varied laterally on several occasions. This variance in altitude and ground track continued until about 17 minutes after takeoff when the airplane entered a right 270-degree turn and impacted the water while traveling downward at about 5,000 feet per minute. Examination of weather radar data and satellite imagery revealed that the tropical wave had produced overcast conditions, embedded thunderstorms with tops near 34,000 feet, heavy rain, and wind of about 47 knots. Correlation of the weather radar data to the airplane's ground track revealed that the non-instrument rated pilot was maneuvering around and through the weather, and that the airplane's position at the time of the accident correlated to the position of a thunderstorm. Examination of the wreckage after recovery from the ocean showed no evidence of preimpact mechanical failure or malfunction of the aircraft structure, flight control systems, engine, or propeller. It also revealed that the airplane was not equipped with any type of weather avoidance equipment. During the course of the investigation, no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing was discovered.

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

The pilot's inadequate weather planning and improper decision to continue a visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in an encounter with a thunderstorm and subsequent loss of control.

Full narrative available

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