Flight into turbulence ends tragically

This April 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Piper Malibu Meridian.
Location: Bird Cay, Bahamas.
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: Presumed destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot obtained two preflight weather briefings through Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS) for the flight from the U.S. to Nassau, Bahamas. The airplane was equipped with color radar and stormscope. For the return flight the pilot accessed DUATS again. There was no way to tell whether he received a preflight weather briefing with Nassau Flight Service Station. Thunderstorms with severe turbulence were forecasted for the accident area well in advance of departure, and would have been available had the pilot obtained a preflight weather briefing.

After takeoff, and while in contact with Nassau terminal radar approach control, the flight climbed to approximately 8,000 feet MSL and headed northwest. The airplane penetrated a level six storm, then began a steep descent. Neither the airplane nor the occupants were recovered, but are presumed lost.

Probable cause: The pilot’s poor in-flight weather evaluation, which resulted in flight into a level 6 thunderstorm.

For more information: ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20070418X00431&key=1.

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