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N1048B accident description

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Tail numberN1048B
Accident dateJune 07, 1998
Aircraft typeMooney M20A
LocationCanyon Creek, MT
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On June 7, 1998, approximately 0945 Mountain daylight time, a Mooney M20A, N1048B, registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was destroyed when it broke up while in flight over Canyon Creek, Montana. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The flight had originated from Lewiston, Idaho, about three hours and forty-five minutes before the accident, and was en route to Great Falls, Montana.

The pilot had just purchased the aircraft and was in the process of flying the aircraft back to his home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Radar data provided by the Salt Lake City Air Route Traffic Control Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, indicates that the aircraft was flying in a northerly direction between 13,200 feet and 14,500 feet, ten minutes before the accident. The last two radar targets at 14,300 feet and 13,700 feet indicate that the flight path deviated to the east and then southeast before the radar target was lost. The wreckage was located south of the last radar target at an elevation of approximately 5,100 feet.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

At the time of the accident, the pilot held a private pilot certificate for single-engine land airplanes. The certificate was issued on July 7, 1997. The pilot's flight logbook indicates that a total flight time of 153 hours had been accumulated, with 130 hours as pilot-in-command. The logbook indicates that a majority of the flight time was in a Cessna 152 (85 hours), and in a Piper PA28-151 (42 hours).

On May 22, 1998, the logbook indicates the pilot's first flight in the Mooney M20A. At this time, the aircraft was owned by another individual who was in the process of selling the aircraft to the pilot. Two other flights were flown with the previous owner on May 23, 1998, and May 24, 1998. The three flights totaled 7.2 hours. The pilot logged these three flights as "dual received" and "Pilot-in Command." During an interview with the previous owner, it was learned that he is not a flight instructor. The owner also stated that the pilot was not signed-off for complex aircraft. The owner stated that he had recommended a flight instructor at the local airport, who could give the pilot the flight instruction needed for the complex aircraft sign off.

On June 6, 1998, the logbook indicates a one-hour "dual received" flight in the local area of Kennewick, Washington. The entry was signed by a flight instructor. During an interview with the flight instructor, he reported that, although the pilot was competent, he did not endorse the pilot's logbook for solo operation in a complex aircraft as required by 14 CFR Part 61.31. The instructor recommended to the pilot at least ten hours of additional instruction.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 0423, the pilot contacted Boise, Idaho, Flight Service Station for the weather, and informed the specialist that he was in Lewiston, Idaho, and planning an east northeast route to Great Falls, Montana or Billings, Montana, that morning. The specialist asked the pilot if Billings was his destination, and the pilot stated that he did not have a specific location, only that he had the next seven days to head east to Pennsylvania and preferred a Great Plains route. The specialist informed the pilot that western Montana, and eastern Idaho were forecasting some areas of mountain obscuration with low overcast ceilings as low as 2,000 feet. The specialist suggested that heading south over Baker, Oregon, then southeast into Boise and then east across southern Idaho, into Rock Springs, Wyoming, and Rawlins, Wyoming, then to Rapid City, South Dakota, would be a better route.

The pilot continued to question the specialist on the route of flight to the south. The specialist stated that since it was apparent that the pilot was not familiar with the area, he continued to suggest the route that would keep the pilot away from the mountains. The specialist continued to inform the pilot of the mountain obscurement. The pilot indicated that Rock Springs, would be his first destination and the specialist provided the weather for this route of flight. The pilot again questioned the specialist on the route of flight and the specialist continued to suggest the southerly route away from the mountain obscurement in Idaho and Montana. The pilot concluded the conversion by informing the specialist that he would probably make Cheyenne, Wyoming, his final destination for the day, and that he was going to plan his route of flight and call back with a flight plan.

At 0956, Helena Airport was reporting the weather as the wind calm with light rain/mist. The visibility was six miles. The sky conditions were 2,300 feet broken, 2,800 feet broken, and overcast at 4,900 feet.

At 0856, Great Falls Airport was reporting the weather as the wind from 60 degrees at 10 knots. The visibility was 10 miles with light rain/mist. The sky conditions were scattered at 3,500 feet, broken at 4,800 feet and 6,000 feet.

At 0956, Great Falls Airport was reporting the weather as the wind from 20 degrees at eight knots. The visibility was 10 miles. The sky conditions were broken at 6,500 feet and overcast at 8,000 feet.

COMMUNICATIONS

At 0649, the pilot contacted Boise Flight Service Station in flight and stated that he had just departed from Lewiston, Idaho, en route to Great Falls, Montana, via the Missoula, Montana, VOR, and to open his flight plan. The controller informed the pilot that his flight plan was activated and asked the pilot if he had the airmet for mountain obscuration along the route of flight. An unintelligible response from the pilot was transmitted. The controller repeated that last transmission with no response from the pilot.

At 0925 mountain daylight time, the pilot contacted Salt Lake City, Utah, Air Route Traffic Control Center, and informed the controller that he was about 20 miles west of Helena, Montana, at 11,500 feet, and dodging clouds to remain in visual conditions. The pilot requested radar services to a clear airport for landing, in which he stated "hopefully Great Falls." The controller asked the pilot to squawk a transponder code and radar indicated that the aircraft was 17 miles southwest of Helena. The controller asked the pilot if he was instrument capable. The pilot responded that he was a VFR pilot. The controller informed the pilot that there was a lot of precipitation running north and south just west of Great Falls, down to the Helena area. The controller instructed the pilot to maintain VFR conditions.

At 0932, the controller informed the pilot that the weather conditions for the area were not good. Great Falls was probably the best which was showing few clouds at 5,500 feet, and scattered at 10,000 feet. The controller then communicated with other aircraft in the area for actual conditions. The other aircraft were reporting layers of clouds. One aircraft who departed out of Great Falls, indicated that there was some breaks in the cloud layer at the airport. The controller informed the pilot that a heading to the west and then approaching Great Falls from the west might be a better option. The pilot turned and headed in that direction. The controller asked the pilot if he could see the ground, and the pilot responded that he could not.

At 0942, the controller informed the pilot that another aircraft reported no build-ups about 50 miles northwest of his position, and this pilot thought that the pilot could get into Great Falls by that route. The controller informed the pilot that his current heading was okay and to remain clear of the clouds.

At 0945, the pilot informed the controller that he was looking at a hole and was going to try and "punch through." The controller responded that he saw that the flight had altered course and informed the pilot that he was safe to descend to 10,000 feet. (see radar data points 6 and 7.)

At 0946, the controller informed the pilot of the Great Falls, altimeter. The pilot responded to the information.

At 0948, the controller asked the pilot how much fuel was on board and the number of persons. The pilot responded that he had two-and-a-half hours of fuel and just himself on board. The controller continued to receive weather updates from other pilots and at 0955, the controller asked the pilot if the hole was still looking good. There was no response from the pilot.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The wreckage was scattered over mountainous terrain covering a distance of approximately one-and-a-half miles. The approximate terrain elevation is 5,100 feet. The accident location is approximately 53 miles southwest of Great Falls, and 17 miles northwest of Helena. The terrain was covered with short grass. Fragments of wood splinters and small wood pieces were found along the wreckage distribution path running north to south. Torn pieces of the fabric wing covering were among the wood splinters.

Three large pieces, located within 300 feet of the other were identified at the south end of the wreckage distribution path. The empennage section, measuring 13 feet in length from the aft cabin area to the tail, was found laying on its left side. The baggage door remained attached. The vertical stabilizer remained attached with the rudder attached at the hinges. The vertical stabilizer was bent over to the right at 26 inches from the top. The rudder counter-weight was torn away. Both horizontal stabilizers separated at the root. The remaining root structure was bent downward.

The inboard section of the right wing, with the right main landing gear attached, was found west of the empennage section. A section of the wood spar remained. The lower section of the right side door frame remained attached.

Approximately 100 feet further west, the cabin section was located. The nose of the engine was buried in the soft soil. The cockpit and cabin section remained attached and severely distorted.

Along the wreckage distribution path, both wing flaps and ailerons were found which separated from the wing at the hinges. Sections of the horizontal stabilizer and elevators were also located. Both fuel cells were located outside of the wing structure.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed by Don Schultz, MD, St. Peter's Hospital, Helena, Montana. The pilot's cause of death was reported as multiple blunt force injuries.

Toxicological samples were sent to the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for analysis. The results of the analysis was reported as negative.

ADDITIONAL DATA/INFORMATION

After the wreckage was removed from the accident site and transported to Discount Aircraft Salvage, Deer Park, Washington, the engine was inspected. Severe impact damage was noted to the engine. The propeller, which was located in the impact crater with the cabin section, was separated from the engine at the crankshaft flange. Both propeller blades were bent aft with chordwise scratches and leading edge dents/gouges noted on each blade. The front nose section of the crankcase was destroyed and the front main bearing and crankshaft were exposed. The crankshaft would not rotate. All spark plugs were in place with impact damage noted. The spark plugs were removed and normal operating signatures were noted. The induction pipes and exhaust system separated from the engine. The pushrods and shrouds were damaged. Most of the engine accessory components were separated from the engine and damaged. The vacuum pump and the engine-driven fuel pump remained partially attached. The vacuum pump drive gear separated in the accessory case and the mounting flange displayed impact damage. The carburetor displayed impact damage and no fuel was found in the bowl or fuel lines. The carburetor float was found compressed. The carburetor inlet fuel screen and engine oil pressure screens were clear of contaminants. Both magnetos would only partially rotate as the housings were fractured. No spark could be produced.

The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on July 3, 1998.

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