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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 196455
Last updated: 30 November 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic PA27 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Piper PA-23-250 Aztec
Registration: N44HJ
MSN: 27-3303
Fatalities:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Murray County, Ramhurst, SSE of Chatsworth, GA -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Tuskegee, AL (06A)
Destination airport:Athens, TN (MMI)
Investigating agency: NTSB
The noninstrument-rated private pilot and three passengers departed on a visual flight rules cross-country flight in the multi-engine airplane. The pilot was not in contact with air traffic control at any time during the flight and there was no evidence that the pilot obtained a preflight weather briefing from an official, access-controlled source. Witnesses near the accident site reported that a thunderstorm was advancing toward the area and that the sky was becoming very dark; although it was not yet raining, they heard thunder in the distance, and it was windy. They heard an airplane flying above, then saw pieces of the airplane falling from the sky. The wreckage was scattered over a large area consistent with an in-flight breakup. Examination of the airframe and both engines revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

Review of air traffic control and weather radar data revealed that the accident airplane flew at altitudes between 3,500 and 5,000 ft mean sea level north toward its destination and a large area of convective activity. As the airplane neared the southern edge of the convective system, it turned east, then back to the north before turning east again. Radar contact was lost shortly thereafter. Given the proximity of the airplane to the convective activity, it is likely that it was operating in highly turbulent conditions amidst the updraft/downdraft boundary along the leading edge of the advancing convection, and possibly in an area of reduced visibility. Review of weather information indicated that the airplane would have been operating in visual meteorological conditions for most, if not all, of its approach toward this large convective system, and the presence of convective activity ahead of the airplane should have been apparent to the pilot.

An Area Forecast issued about an hour before the flight departed and valid for the accident time advised of scattered clouds at 3,500 ft and 5,500 ft, rain showers and thunderstorms with moderate rain, and possible severe thunderstorms with cumulonimbus clouds with tops to 45,000 ft. A convective SIGMET was issued about 45 minutes before the airplane reached the area of the accident site. At that time, the accident site was located very close to the boundary of the SIGMET advisory area.

The pilot's lack of an instrument rating, turbulence, maneuvering flight, and the possible restricted visibility conditions are all factors known to be conducive to the development of spatial disorientation, and the in-flight breakup is consistent with the known effects of spatial disorientation. It is likely that, upon encountering the conditions associated with the leading edge of a large area of convective activity, the pilot became spatially disoriented, which resulted in a loss of control, subsequent exceedance of the airplane's design stress limitations, and an in-flight breakup.

Probable Cause: The noninstrument-rated pilot's continued visual flight rules flight into adverse weather conditions, which resulted in an encounter with severe convective activity, spatial disorientation, a loss of airplane control, and a subsequent in-flight breakup. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's inadequate preflight weather planning.



FAA register:

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 2 years and 4 months
Download report: Final report


Revision history:

01-Jul-2017 23:44 Geno Added
02-Jul-2017 00:39 Geno Updated [Total fatalities, Total occupants, Location, Source, Narrative]
02-Jul-2017 12:35 Iceman 29 Updated [Time, Embed code]
03-Jul-2017 13:29 Geno Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Operator, Source]
25-Jul-2017 16:34 Iceman 29 Updated [Source, Narrative]
11-Nov-2019 17:37 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Operator, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative, Accident report, ]

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