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NTSB Prelim: Cessna 172

The Airplane Turned Through 540° And Reached 6,450 Ft Before It Entered A Right Turning Spiral Descent

Location: CHARLOTTE AMALIE, CB Accident Number: ERA23LA328
Date & Time: August 4, 2023, 21:17 Local Registration: N13384
Aircraft: Cessna 172 Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On August 4, 2023, at 2117 Atlantic standard time, a Cessna 172M, N13384, was presumed destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands (USVI). The commercial pilot and private pilot-rated copilot have not been located. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector the purpose of the flight was for the private pilot to accumulate additional hours for an instrument rating. Preliminary automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast (ADS-B) and air traffic control (ATC) data revealed that the airplane departed Rafael Hernandez Airport (JBQ), Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, about 1933. The airplane was en route to Cyril E. King Airport (STT), Charlotte Amalie, USVI, on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. At 2043:25, the crew requested the ILS Runway 10 approach at STT, followed by the missed approach procedure, and return to JBQ. The San Juan approach controller issued missed approach instructions of a right turn to a 250° heading and climb and maintain 3,000 ft msl. The pilot acknowledged with a correct readback.

After the missed approach, at 2109:31, the controller instructed the crew to climb and maintain 6,000 ft and proceed directly to JBQ. At 2114:30, the ADS-B track data depicted the airplane’s departure from its on-course heading in the climb, to a right turn as it entered an area of precipitation. The airplane turned through 540° and reached 6,450 ft before it entered a right turning spiral descent. About 25 seconds later, track data for the accident airplane ended at 4,700 ft.

The US Coast Guard searched approximately 6,400 square miles by ship and helicopter for a combined total of 45 hours before suspending its search August 7, 2023. Neither the airplane nor its occupants were recovered. The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane and helicopter. His FAA firstclass medical certificate was issued May 24, 2023, and he declared 327 total hours of flight experience on that date. A review of his pilot logbook revealed an estimated 437 total hours of flight experience, 211 hours of which was in helicopters.

The copilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land. He did not possess an instrument rating. His FAA first-class medical certificate was issued April 5, 2022. On his FAA airman certificate application dated April 19, 2023, the copilot declared 94.5 total hours of flight experience.

According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1973 and was powered by a Lycoming O-320-E2D, 150-horsepower engine. An FAA ramp inspection of the airplane was performed June 15, 2023. Correction of the discrepancies noted during the ramp inspection and completion of an annual inspection of the airplane were annotated in separate entries on June 29, 2023, at 4,235.6 total aircraft hours. 

FMI: www.ntsb.gov


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