While the NTSB’s report on the Dec. 20, 2011, crash of a Socata TBM700 does not yet include a probable cause, the details seem to point to the instrument-rated private pilot’s losing control of the aircraft in icing conditions shortly after departure from the New York City-area Teterboro Airport (TEB). The airplane (N731CA) was destroyed when it hit the ground near Morristown Airport (MMU) in New Jersey, killing the owner-pilot and four others aboard.
There was no record of the pilot’s requesting or receiving a weather briefing before the IFR flight although the sequence at TEB reported clear sky and good visibility. It was only after a 9:45 local departure as the aircraft began turning on course toward Atlanta and climbing through 12,800 feet that the pilot mentioned encountering light icing. An Airmet alert calling for moderate icing was issued about the time the aircraft took off, but it is unknown if the pilot was aware of it.
During the climb, the pilot told the New York Center controller, “We’re getting a little rattle here…can we ah, get ah higher as soon as possible please?” Twenty five seconds later the controller cleared the Socata to climb to FL200. A minute later, as the aircraft was climbing through 17,800 feet, it suddenly turned left 70 degrees and entered a descent. A few seconds later the pilot was heard briefly, saying “N731CA’s declaring …” That was the last transmission received.
“A consistent observation [by witnesses] was that the airplane descended at a rapid rate, and was trailing smoke,” said the NTSB report. “At least five witnesses saw pieces of the airplane separate during flight or they observed the airplane descending without a wing attached.”