July 8, 2012, Beckley, W.V., Piper PA-42-720 Cheyenne III


At about 2130 Eastern time, the airplane sustained substantial damage during a thunderstorm encounter. The airline transport pilot and two passengers were not injured. Instrument conditions prevailed.
The pilot was aware of convective activity west of the airport, moving east. Shortly after takeoff, the flight was in smooth air under an overcast. No lightning was observed. The pilot then saw a lightning flash off the right side of the airplane. Within moments, the vertical speed indicator indicated a climb of over 4000 fpm and the airplane’s airspeed increased. The pilot disengaged the autopilot, neutralized the flight controls and made a “mayday” call over the radio. The pilot believed the airplane had entered a steep spiral or spin and reduced engine power. After exiting clouds, the pilot recovered the airplane. The flight landed without incident. The airplane sustained a bent left elevator, torn right elevator and damaged ailerons.


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