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N231GE accident description

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Tail numberN231GE
Accident dateApril 22, 2006
Aircraft typeMooney M20K
LocationColumbus, MS
Near 33.470278 N, -88.593055 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On April 22, 2006, about 1252 central daylight time, a single-engine Mooney M20K airplane, N231GE, was destroyed during a forced landing following a reported loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from the Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTR), near Columbus, Mississippi. The commercial pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The 585-nautical mile cross-country flight was originating at the time of the accident and was destined for the Eppley Airfield (OMA), near Omaha, Nebraska.

An eyewitness traveling east along Highway 82, which was located about one and a half miles north of the departure end of Runway 36 and consisted of four traffic lanes oriented in an east west direction, observed the accident airplane fly across the highway in a north to south direction towards the airport. The witness described the airplane as flying at a lower altitude compared to others he had seen approaching GTR. He further reported that the airplane's landing gear appeared to be in the retracted position.

According to a friend of the pilot, the pilot arrived at GTR on April 16, 2006. While visiting, the pilot mentioned to her that on the trip from OMA the airplane wasn't producing "normal" engine power while at 13,000 feet. The pilot also stated that on the trip to GTR he had to descend to get additional engine power. The friend further stated that the pilot had requested a mechanic examine the airplane during his visit.

On the day of the accident the friend had taken the pilot to the airport. When they arrived at the airport the pilot requested the fuel tanks be topped off. While the lineman was adding additional fuel to the airplane the pilot had mentioned his concern about water contamination and proceeded to sump the airplane's fuel tanks several times. The friend also heard the pilot perform an engine run up and heard the airplane depart. She reported hearing no anomalies.

The lineman, who was employed by RAS Aviation, Inc., provided a statement to the NTSB investigator-in charge (IIC). According to the lineman, while the pilot was paying for fuel that had been added several days earlier the pilot expressed that the airplane should have taken more fuel. After the airplane was pulled from the hangar, the pilot requested the airplane be topped off again. The lineman proceeded to service the airplane with an additional 4.6 gallons of 100 Low Lead aviation fuel. When the lineman last observed the airplane it was on the taxiway preparing to depart.

The IIC interviewed the airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanic that examined the airplane during the pilot's visit. According to the mechanic, the pilot had reported to him that during takeoff the airplane's engine had been indicating 37 inches of manifold pressure. However, during the last four flights the engine power decreased noticeably during climb out. The pilot reported that he didn't think the engine was getting "full throttle" when he reached an altitude of 8,000 to 9,000 feet. The pilot further reported having an alternator problem.

The pilot asked the mechanic to remove the engine's cowling and perform a visual inspection of the engine. According to the mechanic his visual inspection revealed no obvious anomalies. Following the visual inspection the pilot instructed the mechanic to reinstall the engine cowling and informed him that he intended to have the airplane checked out further when he returned to OMA. The mechanic stated that he did nothing more to the airplane then remove the engine cowling, perform the visual inspection, and reinstall the engine cowling. An engine runup was not performed.

On April 24, 2006, personnel from Elliott Aviation, located in Omaha, Nebraska, provided the IIC with a statement concerning two conversations they had with the pilot via telephone while he was in Columbus, Mississippi. The first conversation occurred on April 19, 2006, between the pilot and Elliott Aviation's Assistant Service Manager (ASM). According to the ASM, the pilot stated that he observed a lack of turbo boost power at altitude while on his trip to GTR. The pilot continued that the engine power appeared to return to normal at lower altitudes. The ASM suggested that he find a mechanic at GTR to remove the cowling and perform a visual inspection of the engine to look for defects. The pilot agreed and the conversation ended.

The second conversation between the pilot and Elliott Aviation's ASM occurred on April 20, 2006. The pilot reported that he had found a mechanic to inspect the engine and that nothing out of the ordinary was found. The pilot further reported that the airplane's alternator would not come on line during idle; however, once the engine RPM reached 1,100 the alternator would respond "normally." The pilot then stated that he intended to fly the airplane back to OMA and requested that personnel from Elliott Aviation "look into the matter of low power at altitude" and the alternator problem upon his return. During the conversation the ASM asked the pilot if the airplane could make full power during a ground run to which the pilot responded that he believed so. The pilot added that he would do a ground run before his departure from GTR. There were no further conversations between Elliott Aviation and the pilot.

A review of the airport security camera tapes revealed that the pilot performed a preflight inspection of the airplane beginning about 1210. The engine was started about 1232 with takeoff at 1247.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. The pilot also held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical was issued on October 26, 2004, with the limitation of "MUST WEAR CORRECTIVE LENSES FOR NEAR AND DISTANT VISION."

An examination of the pilot's logbook indicated an estimated total flight time of 2,410 hours; of which 1,122 hours were in this make and model of airplane. The pilot had logged 13 hours in the last 90 days and 4 in the last 30 days. The pilot's last noted flight review was via the completion of WINGS program phase five on March 11, 2006.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The 1979-model Mooney M20K, serial number 25-0233, was a low wing airplane, with retractable landing gear, and configured for four occupants. The airplane was powered by a direct drive, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, air-cooled, turbo-charged, six-cylinder engine. The engine, a Continental TSIO-360-GB-CLB (1), serial number 309720, was rated at 210-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 October 12, 2005, at an airframe total time of 2,347-hours. At the time of the accident, the airframe had accumulated approximately 2,367-hours, with 20-hours since the last inspection.

The engine logbook revealed that the engine had been inspected in accordance with an annual inspection on October 12, 2005. At the time of the accident, the engine had accumulated approximately 216-hours since its last major overhaul.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 1300, the weather observation facility at GTR reported, wind from 350 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear of clouds, temperature 79 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 57 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure setting of 30.05 inches of Mercury.

COMMUNICATIONS

The following transcript was compiled by the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) from a recording of communications between the pilot of N231GE and Memphis Center (MC). The time between the first communication and the last is approximate 1 minute and 32 seconds.

N231GE: Memphis Center 231gulf echo one thousand for three.

MC: say again.

N231GE: Memphis Center it's Mooney 231gulf echo off Golden Triangle one thousand one hundred for three

MC: and uh 231 gulf echo roger climb and maintain eight thousand

N231GE: 231 gulf echo I have a power loss and am going to have to turn around and go back to Golden Triangle

MC: one gulf echo roger you are returning back to Golden Triangle?

N231GE: yes sir I have a total power failure right now

MC: okay roger you are cleared to the Golden Triangle Airport via direct

N231GE: one gulf echo thanks

MC: one gulf echo uh report the Golden Triangle Airport in sight

N231GE: I have the Golden triangle it's going to be short in

MC: say again

N231GE: Golden Triangle it's going to be one I'm going to be short in a field one gulf echo

There were no further communications from the pilot.

RADAR DATA

According to radar data, the airplane was first observed as it was climbing on an approximate heading of 360 degrees at an altitude of 300 feet mean sea level (MSL). The airplane then initiated a left turn to an approximate heading of 320 degrees. The airplane continued to climb at an airspeed of approximately 90 knots until it reached an altitude of 1,000 feet agl. The airplane then descended to 900 feet agl before a right turn was initiated back towards GTR. The airplane continued to descend at an airspeed of between 80 and 90 knots until below 200 feet msl when radar contact was lost.

AERODROME INFORMATION

Golden Triangle Regional Airport was a controlled airport operating under Class D airspace. The field elevation was 264 feet mean sea level (msl). Runway 36 was a 6,497-foot-long by 150-foot-wide asphalt runway.

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 Teledyne Continental Motors.

The main wreckage came to rest in tall grass at the northeast corner of a freshly planted cornfield, about 100-feet southeast of the intersection of two tree lines. One tree line ran west from the wreckage site and a smaller tree line ran north from the site. A retention pond was located about 225-feet east of the wreckage while a large level field extended south. The wreckage was approximately 4,054 feet north from the departure end of Runway 36 and about 3,893 feet south of Highway 82. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates recorded at the accident site were 33 degrees 28.217 minutes North latitude and 088 degrees 35.579 minutes West longitude, at a field elevation of approximately 261 feet mean sea level (msl).

The initial point of impact was a large oak tree located approximately 200-feet from the final resting place of the main wreckage. Broken tree limbs and the outboard 12-feet of the airplane's right wing were found about 45-feet beyond this tree. The first ground impact mark was noted approximately 75-feet beyond the right wing section. The main wreckage came to rest in an inverted position on a heading of 40-degrees. The debris field encompassed an area approximately 200-feet long and approximately 20-feet wide, on a magnetic heading of 170-degrees. There was no post impact fire and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site.

The main wreckage consisted of the cockpit, fuselage, empennage, left wing, remaining inboard section of the right wing, and engine. Control continuity was established to all major flight controls. The flaps and landing gear were found in the retracted position. The throttle, mixture, and propeller knobs were found full forward. The fuel selector valve was found in the right tank position. The engine low and high fuel boost pump switches were found in the "off" position.

The left and right fuel tanks were opened and examined. All fuel finger screens were found clean and unobstructed. The fuel selector was removed and examined. No abnormalities were noted. Clear tubing was used to blow air by mouth from the selector valve position outboard to each fuel tank and forward to the fuel pump. No fuel line obstructions were found. The fuel gascolator was removed and examined. The screen was clean and clear with the exception of a small amount of pink lint like substance.

The electric fuel boost pump was removed from the airplane. With the intake line submerged in a bucket of water, the fuel pump was connected to a battery. The pump operated and displaced water at a consistent rate.

A one quart fuel sample was taken from the inboard section of the airplane's right wing. The sample was blue in color with no visible contaminates. A fuel sample was also taken from the fuel truck that had last serviced the airplane. The fuel was blue in color with no visible contaminates. The engine air induction system was examined and no obstructions were found.

The engine, which came to rest un-cowled and lying on its left side, was found partially separated from the engine mount. The exhaust tubes, induction risers, and balance tube exhibited impact damage. The throttle body and fuel lines received impact damage; however, the fuel lines and fuel nozzles remained attached in their respective positions. The starter and alternator were found securely fastened to the engine.

The propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft flange. The spinner assembly was damaged with aft crushing. No twisting signatures were observed to the spinner. Both propeller blades were loose within the hub assembly. One blade was bent aft approximately 75-degrees, with no tip or leading edge damage, and no chordwise scoring signatures. The other blade was slightly bent forward with no tip or leading edge damage, and no chordwise scoring signatures.

With the engine separated from the fuselage, the crankshaft was rotated by hand via the propeller. Continuity was established to each piston, accessory gears, and the complete valve train. The left and right magnetos produced spark to all leads. The fuel pump was removed and the fuel pump drive coupling was found complete and undamaged.

The spark plugs were removed and exhibited "normal" wear signatures when compared to the Champion Aviation check-a-plug comparison chart. The oil filter was cut open and the element removed. An inspection of the element revealed no visible metal contaminants. The oil screen was found clear of debris and visible contaminants.

The engine was recovered to the Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) facility in Mobile, Alabama, for further examination and teardown inspection. Under the supervision of the NTSB, an engine tear down examination was performed. The engine examination revealed the following:

The six engine cylinders were removed. Each cylinder combustion chamber exhibited nominal amounts of combustion deposits and each bore was free of scoring. The cylinder skirts were complete and hone marks were visible in each cylinder bore ring travel area. All intake and exhaust valve heads exhibited normal deposits and operating signatures. Each rocker box area exhibited an oil residue suggesting lubrication to the overhead components. The cylinder overhead components (valves, rocker arms, guides, springs, retainers and shafts) appeared undamaged. All six piston heads exhibited a normal amount of combustion deposits and the piston skirts were free of scoring. The piston rings were complete, free in their grooves, exhibited normal wear and operating signatures. The piston pin and plug assemblies were complete with no damage noted.

The engine crankcase was separated. The crankcase cylinder bays were unremarkable. The main bearing support mating surfaces were intact and exhibited no signs of fretting. The main bearing support diameters were intact and exhibited no signs of bearing movement or bearing tang lock-slot elongation. The connecting rod journals, main journals and thrust surfaces showed no sig

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