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On September 6, 2002, at an unknown time, a Piper PA-36-300, N59684, registered to Wright Brothers Aviation Ltd., became missing on a flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Weather conditions are unknown and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed but not activated for the 14 CFR Part 91 ferry flight. The airplane has not been located and is presumed destroyed and the commercial-rated pilot, the sole occupant, is presumed to be fatally injured. The flight originated about 0727 eastern daylight time, from the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
According to transcription of communications (transcript) with the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Air Traffic Control Tower, the pilot contacted ground control for taxi clearance at 0721:11, and was cleared for takeoff at 0726:37. At 0729:02, the tower controller advised the pilot to contact Fort Lauderdale International Air Traffic Control Tower which the pilot acknowledged. According to a transcript with the Fort Lauderdale International Air Traffic Control Tower, the pilot remained in contact with their facility from 0731:00 to 0732:10. The next recorded air traffic control communications occurred at 0852:30, when the pilot contacted Nassau Approach Control advising that the flight was at 1,500 feet and 40 miles northwest of Nassau, en route from Fort Lauderdale, to St. Croix. The controller provided the pilot a discrete transponder code, then radar identified the flight advising the pilot that the flight was 35 miles west of Nassau. The pilot then advised the controller that he would be maintaining 1,500 feet, to which the controller advised the flight would not be able to proceed overhead due to the altitude flown, and provided a heading to fly until the flight was abeam Nassau. After that time, the pilot could proceed on-course. At 0928:03, the controller advised the pilot of the altitude and location of traffic, and to, "...resume normal navigation to your destination." The pilot acknowledged that comment and the controller terminated radar services at 0932:58. There were no further contacts reported with any ATC facilities along the route of flight.
According to the controller who handled the communications with the accident pilot, the flight was vectored about 10 nautical miles southwest of Nassau for traffic and weather. The flight was then vectored approximately 20 miles to the southeast of Nassau, where radar services were terminated, the airplane was clear of traffic and weather, and the airplane was proceeding southeast bound. The Nassau radar data is not recorded; therefore, a radar plot is not available.
Review of the chronological notes from the U.S. Coast Guard, revealed the Coast Guard (CG) was first notified of the missing airplane by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), on September 8, 2002, at 1420. The CG initiated a communications search and also performed a track line search on September 12, 2002, from the last known position to Providenciales. The results were negative.
The pilot was the holder of a FAA issued commercial pilot certificate based on a foreign certificate with airplane single and multiengine land ratings; he did not have an instrument rating. He was issued a second class medical certificate on January 30, 2001, with the restriction, "must wear corrective lenses." The pilot indicated on the application for that medical certificate that he had 4,000 hours total time.
The airplane was equipped with a 38-cubic foot capacity hopper tank installed aft of the engine firewall. According to a mechanic, the hopper tank was converted to supply fuel to the engine for the ferry flight. Additionally, the pilot reportedly carried a fully charged 12-volt battery and an electrically operated artificial horizon with him on the accident flight as the agricultural airplane did not have an artificial horizon installed.
The pilot did not obtain a preflight weather briefing for the flight from the Miami Automated Flight Service Station, or from either of the two DUAT vendors. There was no record that the pilot obtained any preflight weather briefing.
According to the NTSB Weather Study, at the time of the last known position located approximately 20 nautical miles southeast of Nassau (0932), an infrared satellite image indicates a band of high clouds with embedded cumulonimbus clouds extending south of a line from Fort Lauderdale, and Nassau, southeastward towards the Virgin Islands. The last known position was located on the leading edge of higher cloud cover with tops to 38,000 feet. Additionally, enhanced cloud developement with tops to 44,000 feet was noted at a point located 38 miles south of the last known position.
The pilot was in last contact with the Nassau Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT).
A communications search at all airports along the intended route of flight was performed by the FAA, there was no record of contact at any of the facilities by the accident pilot.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage has not been located.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot's daughter stated that her father was in good health and was not taking any medication. He did not have any heart problems or surgery. The pilot's body has not been located.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The filed flight plan indicated the altitude en route was 5,500 feet mean sea level, the route was direct from Fort Lauderdale to St. Croix, with 10 hours time en route, and 13 hours of fuel on-board.
The airplane was fueled the day before the accident; the pilot fueled the hopper tank while a line service person filled both wing fuel tanks. A total of 183.2 gallons of fuel were pumped. Additionally, the same day 5 quarts of oil were added to the engine.
According to the pilot's daughter, her father was ferrying the airplane for the new owner to Brazil. She reported that her father had on-board a GPS, a four man life raft, and a life jacket that he always wore. He also had a survival kit and a satellite cellular phone, which was tested the day before the accident. Her father has been ferrying airplanes to Brazil for approximately 7 years, and advised her that he would call her using his satellite phone when flying over Providenciales; she was not contacted by her father.