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N577RS accident description

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Tail numberN577RS
Accident dateJuly 26, 2006
Aircraft typeMooney M20J
LocationNewellton, LA
Near 32.051111 N, -91.464722 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On July 26, 2006, about 2340 central daylight time, a single-engine Mooney M20J airplane, N577RS, was destroyed during a loss of control following an in-flight encounter with thunderstorms while in cruise flight near Newellton, Louisiana. The instrument rated flight instructor and student pilot were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the McClung Energy Services, Inc., of Longview, Texas. Dark night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed through out the area for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 flight for which an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The 228-nautical mile cross country flight originated from the Pike County Airport (MCB) near McComb, Mississippi, about 56 minutes prior to the accident, with the East Texas Regional Airport (GGG), near Longview, Texas, as its final destination.

The pilot of N577RS first contacted the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZHU) at 2303, stating that he was 13-miles west-northwest of the Columbia-Marion County Airport (0R0), and was requesting radar flight following service. The radar controller issued transponder code 2425 and suggested that the pilot level-off at 7,500-feet because of crossing traffic ahead. The pilot acknowledged the transponder code and agreed to level-off at 7,500-feet. The controller confirmed radar contact with the airplane at 2304 and issued the McComb altimeter setting. The pilot reported the crossing traffic in sight at 2307 and initiated a climb to 8,500-feet. At 2317 the controller instructed the pilot to contact Houston Center on 120.97. The pilot contacted the controller at 2318, and Houston Center issued the Alexandria altimeter setting. The pilot acknowledged.

About 2319, when N577RS was approximately 23-miles northwest of McComb, Mississippi, the pilot contacted Greenwood Automated Flight Service Station via radio. He reported that he was en route to GGG, could see lightning in the distance, and asked if there were any weather radar returns between the airplane's present position and GGG. The Greenwood in-flight specialist responded that there was some "pretty scattered" activity along the route, with a storm west of Natchez, another between Natchez and Alexandria, another about 30 miles south of Monroe, and a thunderstorm south of a line between Shreveport and GGG. The specialist suggested that the pilot avoid the storms by heading north toward Monroe, then over Shreveport to GGG, and stated that if the pilot needed to deviate it would be best to deviate to the north. The pilot acknowledged the information. The specialist then asked if the pilot was operating under instrument or visual flight rules (VFR). The pilot responded that he was VFR. The specialist informed the pilot that there was an AIRMET in effect for IFR conditions over western Louisiana, and eastern Texas, with VFR flight not recommended. He also informed the pilot that GGG was reporting a broken ceiling at 600-feet above ground level (AGL).

The pilot then asked to file an IFR flight plan and open it with the center controller. The specialist took the necessary information, including the pilot's requested routing from present position direct to Monroe and then direct to GGG. He advised the pilot that the flight plan was entered in the system and was available from ZHU on request. The pilot acknowledged and concluded his contact with the Greenwood Automated Flight Service Station.

At 2325, the pilot advised the ZHU controller that he had filed an IFR flight plan with flight service and requested IFR clearance to East Texas Regional Airport (GGG). The controller cleared the flight direct to the airport at 8,000-feet. The pilot responded that he had filed via Monroe to get around some weather. The controller re-cleared the pilot direct to Monroe and then direct GGG. The pilot acknowledged. At 2339, the controller instructed the pilot to contact Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZFW) on 126.32.

The pilot contacted the Fort Worth Monroe sector controller at 2340:16, but the transmission was garbled and weak. The controller confirmed that N577RS was calling, and then asked the pilot to verify his equipment suffix. At 2340:36, the pilot stated that the airplane was "slant Golf," and the controller acknowledged. At 2340:47, the controller issued the Monroe altimeter setting, but the pilot did not reply. At 2342:25, the controller attempted to notify the pilot that radar contact was lost. There was no reply.

The controller attempted to contact the pilot three more times without success. He then contacted the Houston Center sector where the airplane had come from to find out whether the Houston controller could still see the airplane's target. He could not. The Fort Worth controller then asked the Houston controller if the pilot had been told about the weather. The Houston controller replied, "...I told him well he said he wanted to go that way around it so he was aware of it out there." There was no further contact with the airplane.

Fort Worth Center initiated search and rescue activities. The wreckage of the airplane was found in a cotton field by the pilot of an agricultural airplane about 0730 the next morning.

FAA Technical Center staff produced extractions of weather data displayed to the Houston and Fort Worth controllers handling N577RS. These extractions show the airplane entering an area of moderate to extreme intensity precipitation at the time of the accident.

PILOT INFORMATION

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the 24 year old pilot who was occupying the right seat, held commercial and flight instructor certificates with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. Additionally, he held an advanced ground instructor rating. The pilot's last aviation medical examination was completed on March 22, 2006, when he was issued a second-class medical certificate with the restriction "MUST WEAR CORRECTIVE LENSES."

An examination of partial copies of the pilot's logbook indicated a total flight time of 1,295 flight hours. The pilot had logged 139 flight hours in the last 90 days and 49 in the last 30 days. Investigators were not able to determine how many flight hours were in this make and model of airplane; however, records revealed approximately 3 hours in the last 90 days.

According to FAA records, the 47 year old pilot, who was occupying the left seat, was issued a student pilot and third-class medical certificate on September 8, 2005. The pilot's logbook was not recovered during the course of the investigation; however, on his most recent medical application he reported having accumulated a total of 35 hours, with 6 hours in the previous 6 months.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The 1985-model Mooney M20J, serial number 24-1504, was a low wing, semi-monocoque airplane, with a retractable landing gear, and was configured for four occupants. The airplane was powered by a direct drive, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, air-cooled, normally aspirated, four-cylinder engine. The engine was a Lycoming IO-360-A3B6D, serial number L-23909-51A, rated at 200 horsepower at 2,700 rpm, and was driving a two-bladed constant speed McCauley propeller.

According to the airframe logbook, the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on August 8, 2005, with an airframe total time of 2,801 hours. The engine logbook revealed that the engine had been inspected in accordance with a 100-hour inspection on August 8, 2005. At the time of last inspection the engine had accumulated approximately 1,028 hours since major overhaul. The airplane was equipped with a digital tachometer and investigators were unable to retrieve data from the unit. A review of the maintenance records found no history of unresolved maintenance issues.

The airplane was equipped with a 3M WX-10A stormscope/strike finder, an Argus 5000 Moving Map Display, a Garmin GNS 530 Nav/Com/GPS, and a Garmin GNC 250 GPS/Com. The GNC 250 was limited to VFR flight only. The Garmin GNS 530 system was approved for IFR domestic flight, including en route and non-precision approaches.

On July 26, at 1442, the airplane was fueled with 27.6 gallons of 100 low-lead aviation fuel at Addison Airport (ADS), located near Dallas, Texas.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 2253, the weather observation facility at Monroe Regional Airport (MLU), near Monroe, Louisiana, located 47 nautical miles northwest from the site of the accident, was reporting the wind from 220 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 5 statute miles in mist, few clouds at 2,400 feet, scattered couds at 3,100 feet and 5,500 feet, temperature 73 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter setting of 29.98 inches of Mercury.

At 2353, the weather observation facility at MLU, was reporting the wind from 180 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, light rain, scattered clouds at 6,000 feet, broken ceiling at 7,500 feet, overcast at 10,000 feet, temperature 73 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter setting of 29.97 inches of Mercury.

An AIRMET for IFR over western Louisiana and eastern Texas was issued on July 26, 2006 at 2045 and was valid until July 27, 2006 at 0300. The AIRMET was for occasional ceilings below 1,000 feet, visibility below 3 miles in clouds, precipitation, and mist. The airplane was not in the effected AIRMET area at the time of the accident.

A review of Level II Doppler weather radar data for Brandon, Mississippi, (BGX), revealed that the accident airplane had just entered an area of weak to moderate convective weather radar echoes containing light to moderate rain showers, when the accident occurred. Very strong convective weather radar echoes were present within 3 miles to the north.

COMMUNICATIONS

During the flight, the pilot was in communications with Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) and was communicating with Fort Worth ARTCC at the time of the accident. A review of ARTCC communications with the accident airplane confirmed that the pilot was not provided any weather advisories nor was he advised of the radar-depicted weather displayed on the controller's scope. According to recorded display system information, adverse weather was located along the accident airplane's flightpath. The airplane entered the depicted weather while at 8,000-feet. About 19 seconds later radar contact was lost with the accident airplane at 4,400-feet,

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

On site documentation of the wreckage was conducted by investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Lycoming Engines. Investigators from Mooney Airplane Company and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association joined the investigation following the airplane's recovery.

The wreckage was located in a cotton field. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates recorded at the accident site were: 32 degrees 03.063 minutes North latitude and 091 degrees 27.888 minutes West longitude, at a field elevation of approximately 78 feet mean sea level (msl). The wreckage encompassed an area approximately 50-feet long by 25-feet wide. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the site. The wreckage came to rest right side up on a magnetic heading of 70 degrees. The wreckage was found in three separate sections; the fuselage, left wing section, and right wing section.

The fuselage was found right side up and crushed downward in a manner consistent with a near flat vertical impact. The empennage remained attached to the fuselage. The left and right sides of the horizontal stabilizer were found bent upward at an approximate angle of 45-degrees. The forward and aft horizontal stabilizer spars were fractured about 6 inches outboard from each side of the fuselage. The vertical stabilizer remained attached to the fuselage and was crushed forward and bent to the right. Both elevators and rudder remained attached to the horizontal and vertical stabilizer via their respective hinges; however their counterweights were not located.

The one piece wing was found completely fractured near mid span. Both left and right wing sections had separated from the fuselage. The right wing section came to rest inverted with its root end lying on the engine. It extended outward on a compass heading of 70-degrees. The right aileron remained attached to the wing via its hinges, while the right flap was found separated and about 42-feet north of the fuselage. The right wing exhibited crushing near the root, and the outboard leading edge was crushed aft to the main spar. The left wing section came to rest right side up and laying along side the right wing. The left aileron and flap remained attached to the left wing via their respective hinges. The left wing exhibited crushing near the root and leading edge damage. Damage sustained to the upper and lower wing stringers and spar fractures were consistent with a negative (downward) wing failure.

The landing gear and wing flaps were found in their retracted positions. The elevator trim was found in the near neutral position. The fuel selector was found in the right fuel tank position.

The engine was recovered and later examined. The engine was placed on a table and the valve covers were removed. All spark plugs were removed except for the number one, two, and three lower spark plugs. The engine was rotated by hand using the remaining propeller blade. Crankshaft, camshaft, and valve train continuity was established. Thumb suction and compression were obtained on all cylinders. A lighted borescope was used to inspect all cylinders. No defects were observed.

The engine driven vacuum pump furnished suction when rotated by hand. The dual magneto was impact displaced and damaged beyond the ability to test. Fuel was observed at the flow divider and the engine driven fuel pump. The engine driven fuel was actuated by hand and furnished fuel. The fuel injection servo was impact displaced and damaged. The fuel inlet screen was removed and observed clean.

The propeller was found connected to the crankshaft flange. One blade displayed no visible damage nor rotational scoring. The other blade was found bent aft around the lower side of the number two cylinder. It displayed leading edge gouging and polishing.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The State Medical Examiner of Rankin County, Mississippi, performed an autopsy on the pilot, on July 29, 2006.

The FAA, Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The wreckage was released on August 8, 2007, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.