During a cross-country flight under instrument flight rules (IFR), the Piper PA-32R-300 pilot was cleared from 9,000 feet to 7,000 feet over mountainous terrain.
In the descent, he reported encountering instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and extreme turbulence, which caused a loss of control, resulting in inverted flight.
He was able to recover from the loss of control, but was unable to recall how he recovered.
After the upset and recovery, he landed without further incident near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
According to information obtained from a Safety Board meteorology specialist, weather data displayed a band of clouds in the immediate vicinity of the upset location associated with mountain wave activity and locally generated turbulence.
Another aircraft in the immediate vicinity also reported an encounter of moderate-to-severe turbulence prior to the event.
There were no AIRMETs or SIGMETs in effect in the area where the turbulence was encountered.
During a post-flight inspection, both wings were substantially damaged after wrinkling and tearing was found.
Probable cause: The pilot’s encounter with extreme turbulence during descent over mountainous terrain, which resulted in a loss of control, and structural damage in flight.
NTSB Identification: GAA15CA051
This April 2015 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.