April 11, 2009, San Diego, Calif., Piper PA-24-250


The airplane experienced an in-flight breakup during an uncontrolled descent at about 1054 Pacific time. The airplane was destroyed during the breakup sequence and post-impact ground fire. The private pilot and passenger were killed. Visual conditions prevailed; the flight was operating on an IFR clearance.

At about 1051, the pilot informed ATC he was descending from 6200 to 4000 feet MSL. Shortly, ATC instructed the pilot to descend to 2600 feet, imploring him, “keep your speed up” and “maintain maximum forward speed.” At 1053:07, the airplanes Mode C altitude reported 4200 feet. At 1053:11, the airplane was at 3800 feet and at 1053:16 the airplane was at 3300 feet. During this time, the airplane turned in a clockwise direction. By 1053:16, it was on a westerly course.

Within some 45 seconds of ATCs descent and maximum speed instruction, radio and radar contact had been lost. A witness within mile of the accident site observed falling objects. The objects subsequently were determined to be pieces from the accident airplane.


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