NTSB Identification: WPR12FA164
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, April 12, 2012 in Green River, WY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/29/2014
Aircraft: CESSNA 320D, registration: N32EG
Injuries: 1 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 non-instrument rated pilot departed in the high-performance multiengine airplane on a cross-country flight over mountainous terrain. Mixed rain and snow showers were reported in the area, and lightning flash data and surface observations indicate vigorous snow shower activity around the time and location of the accident. Recorded radar returns believed to be associated with the accident airplane showed a radar track on a westerly heading at cruise altitudes between 10,000 and 12,000 feet mean sea level. The radar track then depicted a descending 720-degree turn over the course of several miles. Following the turn, the radar track showed multiple heading and altitude changes over the course of about 2 minutes. The last observed radar return was about 0.4 mile from the accident location. The wreckage debris was scattered over an area about 0.4 mile in length. Pieces of the cockpit and a section of the right elevator were located at the southeast perimeter of the debris field; the fuselage and both engines located at the opposite, northwest, end of the debris field. Sections of the wings, flight control surfaces and horizontal stabilizer were also scattered between the beginning of the debris field and the main wreckage. Examination of the wing and horizontal stabilizer spars fracture surfaces showed features consistent with overstress separation in-flight and no evidence of fatigue was noted. Given the radar track, the length of the wreckage debris field, and the marginal weather conditions, it is likely that the break-up sequence was inadvertently induced as the pilot attempted to maneuver the airplane out of marginal weather conditions, which ultimately led to an exceedence of the design stress limits of the airplane.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain airplane control while maneuvering in marginal weather conditions, which resulted in an exceedence of the design stress limits of the airplane and a subsequent in-flight structural failure.

Full narrative available

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