Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Piper PA-46-310P Malibu, N43368: Fatal accident occurred March 03, 2020 in Bishop, Oconee County, Georgia

Gordon Hall

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Atlanta, Georgia
Continental Motors Inc; Mobile, Alabama
Piper Aircraft; Vero Beach, Florida

Location: Bishop, GA
Accident Number: ERA20FA118
Date & Time: 03/03/2020, 1634 EST
Registration: N43368
Aircraft: Piper PA46
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On March 3, 2020, about 1634 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-46-310P, N43368, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Bishop, Georgia. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot filed an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan and was in contact with air traffic control (ATC) shortly after departure from Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE), Columbia, South Carolina, at 1529. A review of the ATC communications and radar data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that the airplane was on a westerly track from CAE, about 6,000 ft mean sea level (msl), en route to Tuscaloosa Regional Airport (TCL), Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The pilot contacted the Atlanta Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) about 1613, and was provided the current altimeter setting. The controller also broadcast AIRMETs for IFR and mountain obscuration, turbulence and freezing levels.

About 1616, the controller advised the pilot that the flight would need to go north or south over Atlanta. After a few seconds, the pilot advised north, and also said that he could fly at a higher altitude as well. The controller advised the pilot that flying over Atlanta's airspace probably would not work, but he would try and get him as close as possible. The controller subsequently issued a new clearance to the pilot, which included two intersections on the north side of Atlanta, and then direct to TCL.

About 1621, the pilot requested to deviate left for weather, the controller approved the request and advised the pilot he would be past the line of weather in about 15-20 miles.

About 1629, the controller advised the pilot there was a gap in the line of weather in about 8 miles with light precipitation, that he would turn him north to get through it, and once north of the weather the pilot could proceed on course.

About 1630, the controller instructed the pilot to fly a heading of 300°. The pilot acknowledged, then a few seconds later advised that heading was directly toward a convective cell that was "pretty big." The controller explained that he would be keeping him south of the heavy precipitation and turning him north through the line where there was currently about 3 miles of light precipitation. The pilot then stated that the area seemed to be closing in fast. The controller acknowledged and advised him that alternatively he would need to fly south around Atlanta, and the pilot then stated that he would turn right. The controller advised the pilot to fly a 300° heading that would keep the airplane out of the moderate precipitation. The pilot stated "I thought I was gonna shoot this gap here, I got a gap I can go straight through." The controller acknowledged and advised that was fine if it looked good to him, but that he showed moderate precipitation starting in about 1 mile extending for about 4 miles north bound; the pilot acknowledged.

About 1633 the controller asked the pilot what his flight conditions were, the pilot responded, "rain three six eight." There were no further transmissions from the pilot.

A witness stated he was about a 1/2 mile from the accident site and observed scattered rain showers in the area, the base of the clouds were about 2,500 to 3,000 ft, and there was no lightning or thunder. He heard engine noise and then saw the airplane spinning towards the ground in a nose low attitude until it disappeared from sight. He did not see any parts separate from the airplane. He arrived on scene a few minutes later; he stated the fuselage was directly below where he saw the airplane spinning, and it was engulfed in flames.

A second witness stated he heard the airplane, turned and looked up to see it tilted left with its nose pointed towards the ground. He saw the airplane for a few seconds, it was about 150 ft above the ground and spun once or twice. He believed that both wings were attached, and he did not see anything separate from the airplane. He heard the engine revving up and down, then "heard a loud crash." He stated that it was raining heavily right after the accident.

Radar returns from the airplane ended at the western edge of an east-west oriented line of severe thunderstorms and rain showers.

The airplane impacted a wooded area behind a residential property at an elevation of 760 ft and the main wreckage was oriented on a magnetic heading of 090°. All major components were accounted for at the scene. The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage and engine. The wings, empennage, and airframe components were located along the 1/2 mile long debris path. The right side of the fuselage was destroyed by a postimpact fire. The primary flight control cables were traced from the cockpit area to their respective flight control surfaces through impact and overload separation areas.

A borescope was utilized to examine the engine cylinders; all intake and exhaust valves were intact. Crankshaft and valve continuity were confirmed from the front to the rear of the engine. Both magnetos were rotated through the impulse coupling and exhibited a spark on all lead outputs. The two-bladed propeller remained attached to the engine, both blades were free of leading edge gouges or chord-wise scratches.

The postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N43368
Model/Series: PA46 310P
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: AHN, 813 ft msl
Observation Time: 1606 EST
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 15°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots / , 300°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 2500 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting:
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Columbia, SC (CAE)
Destination: Tuscaloosa, AL (TCL)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 33.856667, -83.486389 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email 

USA Water Ski & Wake Sports is saddened to learn of the sudden passing of longtime member Gordon Hall.

Gordon, 62, of Martindale, Texas, was a multi-time national champion tricks skier, renowned water ski site developer, tournament organizer, and board member for the American Water Ski Association, National Collegiate Water Ski Association and USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. In addition to being co-founder of the University of Texas water ski team in 1976, Gordon was an AWSA three-event Senior Judge, Senior Scorer, Pan American Judge and a State Safety Director. He was currently serving as chairman of the board for the American Water Ski Association and as treasurer of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. Gordon’s contributions to AWSA, NCWSA and USA Water Ski & Wake Sports cannot not be overstated. USA Water Ski & Wake Sports extends its sincerest thoughts to Gordon’s wife, Barbara, and the entire Hall family during this difficult time. He will be dearly missed.

Memorial Service Set For Gordon Hall

The memorial service honoring the life of longtime USA Water Ski & Wake Sports member Gordon Hall is scheduled for Saturday, March 14, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. Hall, 62, of Martindale, Texas, was a multi-time national champion tricks skier, renowned water ski site developer, tournament organizer, and board member for the American Water Ski Association, National Collegiate Water Ski Association and USA Water Ski & Wake Sports.

Donald "Don" Leon Grieb, Jr.

Donald "Don" Leon Grieb, Jr. of Houston, Texas, entered into the presence of his Heavenly Savior on March 3rd, 2020. A more complete obituary will appear at a later date. A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 8300 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas, on Saturday, March 14th, at 1 p.m.

Oconee County Coroner Ed Carson notified us today that the identities of the three persons onboard the airplane that crashed in Oconee this week have been confirmed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner's Office:

Gordon Hall (63) of Martindale, Texas
Donald Grieb (67) of Houston, Texas
Chris Weber (65) of Missouri City, Texas

Again, we extend our sympathies to their families.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are in-charge of the investigation and all inquiries concerning the aviation accident should be directed accordingly.
-Oconee County Georgia Sheriff's Office

The Federal investigators have picked up the plane and debris and have completed their work at the plane crash site. The plane crashed on my friend, Mickey Smith, property. He and his family were exceptional hosts while we did what we needed to do during the investigation, including herding his goats out of our way. Mickey is a longtime firefighter and his family has a history of service and support of our emergency services. Thanks to Striplings General Store and Keith for feeding us that critical first day as well, and to everyone else who came forward to assist with this tragedy. 
- Oconee County Georgia Sheriff's Office

The three men who were killed in a plane that crashed in Georgia after taking off from Columbia Metropolitan Airport Tuesday have been identified.

The pilot and passengers on board the small plane were businessmen from Texas, Oconee County Coroner Ed Carson told The State Wednesday.

Carson said his office is still working on positively identifying all three, and is using dental records to help the process.

Without publicly releasing their names, the coroner’s office confirmed the men were from Texas. They were in Columbia looking at a potential real estate development, Carson said.

“Our hearts go out to the families of those involved. Each family was extremely gracious and understanding of the situation at hand,” the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook.

The crash is being investigated by Federal Aviation Administration, and their officials are on the scene, according to the sheriff’s office.

The crash happened around 4:30 p.m. in a heavily wooded area, according to the sheriff’s office. Oconee County is about 170 miles west of Columbia, just outside of Athens.

Officials found the small plane engulfed in flames. Local emergency personnel attempted to rescue passengers but were unable to because of the fire and damage to the aircraft, according to the sheriff’s office.

Other than the three occupants of the plane, no injuries were reported in the crash, as the sheriff’s office said no one on the ground was hurt.

Kim Jamieson, a spokesperson for Columbia Metropolitan Airport, confirmed the plane took off from the Columbia airport around 3 or 3:15 p.m., about an hour and a half before the crash.

The plane’s intended destination was Tuscaloosa National Airport in Alabama, Carson said.

The plane was a Piper PA-46-310P Malibu that can carry up to five passengers and a pilot, Atlanta TV news station 11 Alive reported.

One witness who lives in the area, Andrew Brislin, said the plane was “going around, spinning around in a circle,” CBS46 reported.

Law enforcement said they were not immediately aware of any calls for distress, but the investigation is ongoing.

Information on what caused the plane to crash was not immediately available, but the sheriff’s office was not ruling out a weather-related issue.

“I don’t know (if weather was a factor), I don’t want to speculate as to what the cause of the plane coming down was. But we have had some significant weather in the county this afternoon,” sheriff’s office spokesman Capt. James Hale said during the news briefing.

Original article can be found here ➤

The National Transportation Safety Board is responsible for recovering the aircraft and the debris from the plane. If you have debris in your yard, it will be recovered. The Federal government works on their schedule, not mine. Please don't touch it or move it. It is important to the ongoing investigation.

While we have suspected identification on all the passengers and the pilot who crashed yesterday, we are NOT releasing the names officially until we have made positive ID's with the Crime Lab. That may take a while. We want to be absolutely sure before we release information on the identities. Please respect the deceased and their grief stricken loved ones.

Oconee County Georgia Sheriff's Office

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (WIS) - An investigation is now underway after a plane crashed in Oconee County, Georgia causing multiple fatalities on Tuesday.

According to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, first responders arrived and found what appeared to be the fuselage of the plane.

Officials have not been able to identify the passengers on the plane. However, officials with the Oconee County Coroner’s Office has confirmed the three victims were businessmen from Texas.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office could not confirm where the plane was headed or where it came from. However, officials with the Federal Aviation Administration said a Piper PA-46-310P Malibu crashed just 10 miles outside of Athens around 4:35 p.m. on Tuesday. Officials said air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft while it was flying over Oconee County after leaving Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is working with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the crash.

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. Agreed dwn. Flight Aware track looks like pilot turned right into an area of heavy rain. I have listened to several news casts on the crash. Some of the comments of those who live near crash site indicate very scattered wreckage. Possible in flight breakup? Also, looking at speed chart on flight aware looks like rapid decent.

  2. Weather information depicted on flight-deck displays can be 20 minutes older (or more) than timestamps and should not be used for tactical maneuvering near storms, embedded or otherwise. Fair possibility plane flew into that heavy cell thinking it was further west.

  3. Does anyone know how FlightAware can depict a (for example) a three hour flight and display a radar image relative to that flight. I mean wx moves and so at what point in that three hour flight does FlightAware decide to depict the wx. Seems like the wx depiction could be not even relative to the flight at any given position. In the case of this accident which occurred around 1630E the DT stamp for the picture is 1540C a difference of ten minutes, so the wx depiction is fairly accurate for the time of the crash. Anyone know the answer?

    1. Did not find the answer in FAQ's, but the FlightAware community discussion board had this old post from FlightAware Staff on that question:

      Q: "When during the flight is the weather snapshot taken?"
      A: "Before the flight lands it’s the latest, after the flight lands it’s the midpoint in time. The weather timestamp is always displayed at the bottom of the map." (mduell, FlightAware Staff)

      You'll have to decide for yourself about the fact that the WX snapshot is not really midpoint in the total time of the N43368 plot. If you go back and examine the N709CH playback and do the EDT/UTC offset correctly, the WX snapshot there was about midpoint. Both plots "predict" a landing time for endpoints.

  4. Here is a 2015 for sale listing with photos and features of N43368:

    1. that listing has a date stamp of June 2015

    2. Yes, and that's why the post began with "Here is a 2015 for sale listing..."

      Photos and description of panel equipment are always of interest. Anyone who reads the post fully understands that the new owner may have or may not have upgraded some of what was in the panel in 2015.

  5. In the big scheme of things, if you feel you need to fly into a thunderstorm, 5,000 to 6,000 is the best altitude. The higher you get, the more intense. But, the best plan is still avoidance. We don't know what he could see out the window but in that airplane, you can climb fairly high, get a visual on what's happening and steer for clear.

  6. I flew right over the area of the crash at FL270 in an L39 about the time of the crash. Just above the convective activity but still in the clouds.

  7. There is likely to be ATC communication on record about that turn in the last few minutes. NTSB will have the ATC related info to share. If the turn just happened without the pilot communicating with ATC, it could be a case of coming off the autopilot in severe IMC with control upset and/or SD taking over.

    As mentioned in other comments, latency of transmitted WX info is a well known danger. No radar unit on board to paint a real time picture, could be similar occurrence to N3590T accident.

    1. SD = Spatial Disorientation.

    2. Yep ... Could be SD. Using a strategic tool for tactical purposes and turning into a cell could lead to an upset that could lead to SD before or after a breakup ... at that point you are along for the ride.


  8. Interesting article on flying around thunderstorms

  9. Look at the NTSB preliminary report dated April 2nd. Definitely not SD. Looks and sounds like ATC error.

  10. Why has this crash investigation still in Preliminary status? It is been two and a half years. All other crashes from that time period have final reports.


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