Takeoff into thunderstorm kills three

Aircraft: Piper Malibu Mirage. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Rantoul, Ill. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The day before the accident the pilot, who was reported to have logged at least 1,850 hours, obtained a computerized weather briefing and filed a flight plan. However, none of the weather information he obtained was current at the time of the accident.

On the morning of the accident, the area forecast outlook indicated thunderstorms would be present during the morning hours. Weather information at the departure airport about the time of takeoff indicated lightning to the north and northwest.

Pictures taken during passenger boarding and while taxiing to the runway depicted a defined shelf, rotor, or arc cloud, which marked the boundary of the low-level outflow of a storm that was approaching the airport. Dark conditions under the clouds are consistent with approaching precipitation.

A pilot-rated witness reported that the pilot was in a “hurry because a storm front was coming.”

The airplane took off on runway 27 and started to turn to the south. The weather front and a strong wind from the northwest appeared to “push the tail of the plane up and the nose down.” The airplane crashed and burned. The witness indicated that the airplane’s engine was producing power until impact.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control during takeoff with approaching thunderstorms. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to depart into adverse weather conditions.

NTSB Identification: CEN11FA500

This July 2011 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.


  1. says

    Mental pressures to fly into bad weather are heavy, especially for business meetings. The more capable the aircraft in the hands of inexperienced pilots often lead to disaster.

    I have experienced similar situations and escaped by the grace of God. If I were to make a single suggestion to all pilots, aircraft capability should have little to do with go-no-go decisions. Would you go on this flight in your last plane? If not, then why would this airplane change that decision? Now, to me de-ice, which I had on my Saratoga SP and Navajo Chieftain, is there if I got in trouble on route, not there to get me through some freezing rain on the way up.

    One time, to my regret, I did not take my own advice and had a miserable experience. I learned the hard way from that! Just luck, aircraft and training saved me and my business passengers. I did not lose the client another lucky turn. It made us sole mates the hard way.

    PS: How many hours did this pilot have in the Mirage? 1,850 hours is a good amount but not if they were VFR in an Arrow or C-182. Over confidence is a characteristic of most all pilots. Add a touch of over confidence in your plane and you can get in real trouble fast.

    Just saying… don’t shoot the messenger.

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