In-flight breakup preceded fatal Conquest crash

 - May 15, 2008, 6:06 AM

The pilot and two passengers aboard a Cessna 425 Conquest I were killed March 6 after the aircraft suffered an in-flight breakup and crashed about 13 mi from Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, Calif., where the twin turboprop had departed six minutes earlier at 10:29 a.m. The airplane, N444JV, was on an IFR flight plan to La Paz, Mexico, when at about 8,000 ft msl the pilot reported, “I just lost my needle. Give me…” Radio contact was lost at that time. Radar data showed the airplane going through a series of erratic turns and altitude changes before contact was lost. Cloud tops in the area were 9,500 ft and the freezing level was 6,000 ft.