According to an NTSB final report, the pilot’s failure to navigate around hazardous weather, resulting in flying into a thunderstorm, lead to the subsequent loss of control and in-flight breakup of a turboprop-converted Piper Malibu near Castalia, North Carolina, in June 2019, killing the pilot and three passengers. The Safety Board also said the air traffic controller’s “failure to provide the pilot with adequate and timely weather information, as required, contributed to the pilot’s inability to safely navigate the hazardous weather.”
Although the pilot was not instrument-rated, he filed IFR for the Part 91 cross-country trip from Naples, Florida, to Easton, Maryland. The aircraft was also about 730 pounds over mtow at takeoff. While in cruise at FL270, the 58-year-old pilot reported to ATC that his radar showed weather ahead. The controller acknowledged the weather, but did not provide specifics to the pilot as requested, including the size and strength of the area of precipitation or cloud tops information (estimated at 43,000 feet).
“The airplane entered an area of heavy to extreme precipitation, likely a thunderstorm updraft, while in IMC,” the NTSB said. “Tracking information indicated that the airplane climbed about 300 feet, then entered a right, descending spiral and broke up in flight at high altitude.” The airplane was estimated to be about 148 pounds over the maximum gross weight at the time of the accident.