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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN15FA245
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 29, 2015 in Plainview, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/05/2017
Aircraft: BEECH A36, registration: N221D
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 attempting to take off, the commercial pilot received weather information indicating that a severe thunderstorm was approaching the airport. Further, two witnesses reported seeing the storm approaching. Several witnesses reported seeing the airplane take off, make a left turn, and then head straight down. GPS data indicated that, after the airplane took off, it banked left, reached about 80 ft above ground level, and then descended and impacted terrain. One of the witnesses stated that they could not believe anybody would take off in the approaching storm. Another witness reported that she was “watching the storm clouds” and heard an engine at “full throttle” and then looked over and saw the airplane “traveling very fast” toward the ground.
Examination of the airplane revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. A postaccident review of weather information established that a gust front associated with a squall line of an approaching severe thunderstorm was over the airport at the time of the accident. This weather situation was likely producing a combination of the following weather phenomenon near the accident site at the time of the accident; strong gusting winds, turbulence, low-level wind shear, reduced visibility due to blowing dust, heavy rain, hail, and lightning. The flight encountered these hazardous conditions during initial climb, which likely made the airplane difficult for the pilot to control and resulted in his loss of airplane control shortly after takeoff. Given the pilot had the current weather information and should have been able to see the approaching storm, he should not have taken off in such conditions. The pilot’s decision to take off with such hazardous weather conditions present resulted in the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot’s decision to take off ahead of an approaching severe thunderstorm, which resulted in an encounter with hazardous weather conditions that led to a loss of airplane control.