Accident to the Socata TB20 registered F-GDNF on 18/04/2019 near Douglas-Charles AD, Island of Dominica [Investigation delegated to BEA by the authorities of Dominica]

Investigation progression Closed
Progress: 100%

Cat. 2 investigation report: simplified-format report, adapted to the circumstances of the occurrence and the investigation stakes.

During the flight preparation, the pilot obtained information about the weather conditions by connecting to the OLIVIA site. Due to a strike at Météo-France, he did not have access to all the meteorological information, and in particular the forecasts (TAF messages). He did not contact the Météo-France office based on Martinique Aimé-Césaire airport. The statement made by one of his colleagues and with whom he had had a discussion before his departure, seems to indicate that he was aware that there were quite adverse weather conditions at departure but that he believed that they would get better at destination.

From the outset of the flight, the pilot was confronted with adverse weather conditions and modified his flight altitude to deal with this situation. On arriving near the south-east coast of Dominica, the pilot was flying in very unstable air with dense cloud cover and numerous downpours. The convective clouds embedded in the mass of stratocumulus, in a downpour, could have been based at an altitude close to 1,300 ft with the cloud tops exceeding 13,000 ft.

According to the radar track, the pilot then veered left towards Dominica and the terrain which he subsequently flew over, in a zone which had the most adverse weather conditions at the time of the accident. It was not possible to establish if the pilot was flying in or outside the cloud layer. It is probable that the pilot was frequently flying into and out of the clouds, leading to temporary losses of external visual references.

The investigation was not able to determine why the pilot had not turned right over the sea to circumvent the danger represented by the island’s terrain.

The pilot’s two successive requests to descend seem to indicate that he had decided to descend towards Dominica in order to regain or keep sight of the ground. In these adverse weather conditions, the pilot’s resources were probably monopolized by controlling the aeroplane to the detriment of the navigation. Not knowing his precise position, the pilot, who did not have a GNSS system, was probably not therefore aware that his path was leading him towards the terrain.

The information provided by the radar track and the position of the wreckage seem to indicate that the flight was probably controlled up until the final impact.