ATL02LA144
ATL02LA144

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On July 20, 2002, at 0600 eastern daylight time a Piper PA-32RT-300, N9738C, registered to Lexanna Aircraft Inc., and operated by the private pilot encountered level 4 thunderstorms and collided into the Atlantic Ocean, 15 miles west of Freeport, Bahamas. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and visual flight rules. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed. The pilot and two passengers received fatal injuries, two passengers including a pilot rated passenger were never recovered and are presumed fatal, and the airplane was destroyed. The flight originated from Freeport, Bahamas, on July 20, 2002, at 0535, enroute to Palm Beach International Airport in Palm Beach, Florida.

A recorded interphone communications from the Miami Air route Traffic Control Center, Freeport Low Radar Controller and the Freeport Approach Control Controller indicated that a short discussion took place to coordinate the departure for N9738C, from Freeport-Grand Bahamas Airport, Grand Bahamas Island to West Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), Palm Beach, Florida.

At 0528, the Freeport Approach Controller requested confirmation from the Freeport Low Radar Controller, "do you have VFR flying at night?" The Freeport low radar controller responded affirmative. A short discussion in-sued regarding the instrument flight plan on file for N9738C. The Freeport Approach Controller advised the pilot was not IFR rated and the Freeport Low Radar Controller requested to have the pilot contact him VFR on beacon code 0045.

At 0538, The Freeport Approach Controller advised, "nine seven three eight Charlie departed at 0535 he'll be talking with you at 10 miles out altimeter three double O seven." The Freeport Low Radar Controller acknowledged the update. At 0551, the pilot contacted the Freeport Low Radar Controller who instructed him to "Squawk zero zero four five and ident." The pilot acknowledged the transmission. There were no further radio communications from the pilot.

According to the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), the airplane was at a cruise altitude of 4,700 feet when they lost radio and radar contact. The center notified the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard began a one-day search and rescue operation. The Coast Guard recovered three fatalities and about 300 pounds of aircraft wreckage/debris. The search and rescue operations had no success in finding the other two victims or the remainder of the airplane wreckage. According to the Coast Guard, the depth of the water in the search area was about 2,100 feet.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

A review of information on file with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on April 30, 2002, with ratings for airplane single engine land. A review of records on file with the FAA Aero Medical Records revealed the pilot held a third class medical certificate issued on April 30, 2002 with restrictions to wear lenses that correct for distant vision. According to the registered owner of the airplane the pilot was the one who had rented the airplane, and had accumulated 280 total flight hours. In addition the pilot had logged 4.0 hours in this make and model during his check ride. The pilot's logbook was not recovered.

A review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot rated passenger was issued a private pilot certificate on June 16, 2002, with ratings for airplane single engine land. A review of records on file with the FAA Aero Medical Records revealed the pilot held a first medical certificate issued on February 8, 2000, with restrictions to wear corrective lenses. According to the registered owner of the airplane the pilot had accumulated 85 total flight hours with his most recent time logged in a PA 28-181. The pilot rated passenger had not been checked out in the PA32-300RT airplane. The pilot's logbook was not recovered.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

A review of the maintenance records revealed that the airplane had received an annual inspection on June 1, 2002. Additionally, the engine was installed on June 1, 2002, following an overhaul by Textron Lycoming. Since the installation and overhaul the engine had accumulated 62 hours. The engine had a total time of 5,622 hours.

WEATHER INFORMATION

The National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Surveillance Radar-1988, located at Miami Regional Forecast Office (KAMX), is located 94 miles southwest from the last known position of the accident airplane. KAMX depicted the airplane entering a large area of weather, and coming within 3 miles of level 4 intensity. There were echo areas over the southern Florida Bahamas region. This area of echoes extended over the Florida Strait between southern Florida and the Bahamas in the immediate vicinity of the accident site. The echoes in the immediate vicinity of the accident site were depicted as strong to very strong in intensity (VIP Level 3 to 4) with an echo top reported at 33,000 feet.

The closest weather reporting location to the accident site was from the departure station Freeport-Grand Bahamas Airport (MYGF), Grand Bahamas. The airport was located 29 miles southeast of the accident site. The weather observations from MYGF immediately after the accident at 0700 reported winds from 160 degrees at 2 knots. The visibility was unrestricted. There were few clouds at 1,800 feet with cumulonimbus clouds extending southwest through northwest of the airport, with rain of unknown intensity.

The planned destination airport, West Palm Beach International (PBI) is located 41 miles from the last known position of the airplane, at an elevation of 19 feet MSL. The) weather observation at 0553 reported winds from 100 at 10 knots. The visibility was 10 statute miles. There were few clouds at 1,200 feet with ceiling broken at 5,000 and overcast at 11,000 feet. There were no records of weather contacts made by the pilot to the Federal Aviation Administration prior to the accident.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The Coast Guard recovered about 300 pounds of aircraft wreckage/debris consisting of lightweight interior furnishings and plastic. The search and rescue operations had no success in finding the remainder of the airplane wreckage. According to the Coast Guard, the depth of the water in the search area was about 2,100 feet.

RADAR INFORMATION

Radar data was obtained from the Melbourne Air Route Surveillance Radar (ARSR) for the time period from 0530 to 0600. The radar targets attributable to the accident airplane began at 0548:48 and ended at 0552:36. The radar returns of the accident airplane indicated the altitude to be 4,700 and 4,800 feet respectively. The pilot reported no anomalies with the engine or airframe prior to the accident

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

At the request of family members, the Bohamian Government did not conduct autopsies or toxicological examinations.


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