The Pilatus PC-12 that crashed near Lakeland earlier this month had changed course to avoid bad weather directly before the crash, according to a preliminary report released by the NTSB this week.
The NTSB cited ATC transmissions showing a controller warning the 45-year-old Pilatus PC-12 pilot of a sizeable area of precipitation northwest of Lakeland while he and five passengers were en route from St. Lucie County International Airport (FPR) to Freeman Field Airport (3JC) in Junction City, Kansas.
The pilot – who at that time was flying at 24,700 feet – agreed with the controller’s suggested deviation to the right and was cleared to fly a new heading of 320 degrees to avoid the weather. In the following seconds, the PC-12 climbed 400 feet while flying in a west-northwesterly direction. During that time, the aircraft also changed course to the right, before beginning a descent, losing close to 15,000 feet of altitude within the span of one minute.
The aircraft then turned to the south and then to the northeast, a course it continued until it crashed into a remote area in Tiger Creek Preserve. All six on board were killed in the accident.
Two witnesses in the local area say they heard a boom sound before witnessing the aircraft rapidly descending in a spin. One reported “3 to 4 cycles of a whooshing high to low sound” before the boom and noted that parts of the aircraft were missing as the aircraft went down. A local pilot flying in the area also heard a Mayday call approximately 1 minute before the Pilatus PC-12’s ELT signal went off.
According to the NTSB, parts of both wings, as well as the PC-12’s elevator and horizontal stabilizer, were found away from the main wreckage site.
The NTSB is continuing its investigation, which may take up to a year to complete.