The private pilot was conducting a personal cross-country flight in the Ryan Navion.
The pilot’s friend reported that he provided weather information to the pilot about an hour before the flight. No record was found indicating that the pilot or the friend obtained a formal weather briefing before he departed for the night cross-country flight.
A review of weather information revealed that, about an hour and 20 minutes into the flight, as the airplane was nearing the destination airport, it encountered a strong cold front boundary with associated severe wind shear and turbulence.
Review of radar data revealed that, during the following 13 minutes, the flight completed numerous course deviations, including three complete left circuits and two right circuits, before hitting wooded terrain near New Gretna, New Jersey. The pilot died in the crash.
A review of the last three minutes of radar data revealed that the airplane’s altitude oscillated between 2,100′ and 200′ mean sea level (msl) as it completed the two right circuits and one of the left circuits before it hit terrain.
The last target was recorded about 2,000′ southeast of the accident site at an altitude of 525′ msl.
Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.
Based on the evidence, it is likely the airplane encountered wind shear and turbulent conditions upon encountering the strong cold front boundary and that the pilot subsequently lost airplane control.
Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight weather planning and in-flight weather evaluation, which resulted in an encounter with a strong cold front and the pilot’s subsequent loss of airplane control.
NTSB Identification: ERA17FA052
This November 2016 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.