Conversion Malibu disappears from radar

 - May 6, 2008, 11:47 AM

PIPER PA-46-310P, OSTEEN, FLA., JUNE 14, 2002–The JetProp DLX-conversion Malibu (N9143B) disappeared from radar at 8:39 p.m. while on an IFR flight plan and flying in IMC. The right wing of the turboprop single reportedly separated in flight, and the airplane fell to the ground near Osteen, destroying the aircraft and killing the private pilot and two passengers aboard. The aircraft was registered to Calvin Miller of Naples, Fla.

Originally certified with a 300-hp Continental Motors TSIO-520, this Malibu was a JetPROP DLX conversion powered by a 750-shp (flat rated to 560 shp) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34.

N9143B’s flight originated in Raleigh, N.C., and was en route to Marco Island, Fla. It was being vectored around weather at FL 260 by Miami Center.

According to ATC tapes, the pilot asked the controller if he could deviate about 12 mi west because he thought he saw a hole in the weather. The controller asked if he could fly a heading of 170 deg, and the pilot said he could not because that was the weather he was trying to avoid. The pilot was then told to change frequencies, and the pilot made his initial radio report to the new controller, was radar identified and by the next radar sweep had disappeared from the radarscope.

Initial radar plots showed that N9143B’s primary radar returns were observed at FL 260, after which the airplane began to descend rapidly. According to investigators, witnesses reported hearing the engine make a “winding” noise and they then observed the airplane emerge from the clouds about 300 ft agl in a nose-low spiral, with the right wing missing. The right wing, which was not found at the crash site, was located three days after the crash by a sheriff’s helicopter.