NTSB Identification: ERA12FA433
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, July 08, 2012 in New Site, MS
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/30/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32R-300, registration: N4386F
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.

Before departing on the accident flight, the pilot filed three instrument flight rules flight plans but had not requested nor received a weather briefing. A witness near the accident site reported a thunderstorm in the vicinity and observed the airplane enter a cloud followed shortly by a "loud pop." The witness then observed pieces of the airplane coming out of the cloud. The left wing and vertical stabilizer were located about 1,500 feet away from the main wreckage. Examination of the fracture surfaces revealed signatures consistent with tensile overload failure. No preimpact mechanical malfunctions were noted that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane.
Review of radar and weather data indicated the presence of thunderstorms along the route of flight, as well as in the vicinity of the accident site, with the potential for some of them to be severe. The satellite datalink weather product in the airplane cockpit uploaded weather data every 5 minutes and likely would have shown a thunderstorm cell increasing in severity to the highest intensity level near the time of the in-flight breakup. According to Federal Aviation Administration publication “General Aviation Pilot’s Guide to Preflight Weather Planning, Weather Self-Briefings, and Weather Decision Making,” datalink weather products are not as accurate or current as onboard weather radar, which provide real-time weather radar images in the cockpit. It is likely that the pilot attempted to maneuver around the weather hazard and inadvertently encountered a thunderstorm cell, which resulted in an in-flight breakup of the airplane due to overstress of the structure.

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

The pilot's decision to operate into a known area of adverse weather, which resulted in the inadvertent penetration of a severe thunderstorm, a subsequent loss of control, and in-flight breakup of the airplane.

Full narrative available

Index for Jul2012 | Index of months