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N2654W accident description

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Tail numberN2654W
Accident dateAugust 20, 1999
Aircraft typeMooney M20E
LocationLas Vegas, NV
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 20, 1999, at 1227 hours Pacific daylight time, a Mooney M20E, N2654W, collided with trees and a residence in Las Vegas, Nevada. The private pilot/owner was operating the personal flight under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot and one passenger sustained fatal injuries; another passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage during the collision and post crash fire. The flight departed Reno, Nevada, about 0920 on a VFR flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. Coordinates of the wreckage were 36 13.112 north latitude and 115 14.163 west longitude.

A transcript of air traffic control tapes for the North Las Vegas Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) recorded that the pilot reported he was 2 miles southwest of the airport at 1224. The ATCT issued a traffic advisory, and the pilot acknowledged that he had the traffic in sight. The ATCT issued instructions to follow traffic on a 2-mile final for runway 12 and return to the downwind. The pilot acknowledged the instructions. At 1227, the controller advised the pilot that it appeared he was adjusting to runway 7, advised him he had been assigned runway 12, and suggested a heading of 300. The pilot acknowledged the instructions, and the ATCT received no further communications from the airplane. The controller looked away, and when he looked back at the Mooney he saw exaggerated wing rocking as the airplane descended.

Several witnesses on the ground reported the airplane rolled, others noted the exaggerated wing rock. They then observed an explosion and fireball. Firefighters responded and reported a strong smell of fuel on scene, and extinguished two flare-ups from a pool of liquid under the wreckage.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accident coordinator interviewed the survivor passenger in the hospital on September 21, 1999. The survivor told the coordinator that they encountered no problems until the pilot initiated a steep bank to the left to acquire the recommended heading. He recalled the pilot expressing concern vocally and noted the pilot had difficulty maintaining control.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land and instrument ratings. He held a third-class medical dated March 2, 1999, with the limitations that the holder shall possess corrective glasses for near vision and "Not valid after Feb. 29, 2000."

Investigators did not find a pilot's logbook. The Safety Board investigator obtained a certified copy of the airman's medical records. The Aviation Medical Examiner never submitted the application for the airman's medical certificate dated March 2, 1999. The most recent completed application occurred on February 28, 1997. This application noted a total time of 2,700 hours.

AIRPLANE INFORMATION

The airplane was a Mooney M20E, serial number 985. Investigators did not find logbooks for the airplane or engine. A mechanic with inspection authorization reported to the FAA that he completed an annual inspection in April 1999. The engine was a Textron Lycoming IO-360-A1A, serial number L473-51A.

Most of the cargo was water soaked and these items were allowed to dry. The Clark County estate administrator recovered 32 pounds of cargo, and the recovery agent weighed an additional 198 pounds of cargo.

Investigators did not find any weight and balance information. The Safety Board investigator reviewed a certified copy of the airplane records. An alteration form listed the addition of radio equipment. The manufacturer combined this information with the original factory weight and balance records to estimate the airplane's current weight and balance. The front passenger's representative provided his weight, and the investigator used driver's license information to establish weights for the pilot and rear seat passenger. The estimated weight at takeoff was 2,647 pounds and the center of gravity was 48.3 inches aft of the datum. At the accident site, the estimated gross weight was 2,390 pounds and the center of gravity was 48.3 inches aft of datum. A figure in the airplane flight manual plots weight versus center of gravity locations. This figure noted the maximum certified weight was 2,575 pounds and the aft center of gravity limit for all weights was 49 inches.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

A special aviation weather report for North Las Vegas (VGT) was issued at 1233. It stated: scattered clouds at 12,000 feet; broken clouds at 18,000 feet; visibility 25 statute miles; winds from 150 at 5 knots; temperature 86 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 57 Fahrenheit; and altimeter 30.06 InHg.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The Safety Board investigator and the FAA accident coordinator inspected the wreckage on scene. The initial point of contact (IPC) was a tree in the front yard of a residence. It displayed scars on the trunk and limbs between 15 and 25 feet above the ground. Tree branches and green needles were on the ground from the base of the tree trunk to the airplane. Green needles were stuck in external appendages on the right wing of the airplane. A 6-foot section of the outboard right wing and the right aileron were 25 feet on a relative bearing of 110 degrees from the IPC. This outboard section had a cylindrical imprint in its leading edge that was about 16 inches in diameter. The right aileron counterweight was 200 feet on a bearing of 110 degrees from the IPC.

The main wreckage was 60 feet on a bearing of 205 degrees from the IPC; the fuselage had a bearing of 260 degrees. The propeller and nose of the airplane were imbedded in the wall of a house. Two palm trees, each about 1-foot in diameter, were on the ground under the fuselage. Part of the inverted and partially separated left wing wrapped halfway around one of the palms. The cabin area exhibited extensive thermal damage.

Investigators observed no fuel in the right tank; the left tank burned away. The fuel selector handle burned and disintegrated. Investigators observed a roll pin in the fuel selector mechanism pointing to the right. The manufacturer stated this indicated the left tank had been selected.

The manual landing gear handle was locked in the gear down position. The right main landing gear was down; the nose gear was exposed but crushed aft. The left wing fractured and separated in the area of the left main gear. The left main gear collapsed and partially detached.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Clark County Coroner completed a post mortem examination of the pilot. The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory performed toxicological tests of the pilot. The results of analysis of the specimens were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and tested drugs.

SURVIVAL ASPECTS

The survivor reported that both the pilot and rear seat passenger survived the initial impact.

The survivor observed the pilot trying to unfasten his seatbelt. The pilot's seat belt remained buckled but the webbing burned through. The medical examiner recorded that the pilot sustained a fractured left clavical. The top and left side of the cabin burned away. The pilot's legs remained situated in the left floor of the airplane, while the upper body rotated about 90 degrees counterclockwise and lay outside the cabin area. The medical examiner diagnosed the pilot's cause of death as inhalation of combustion products.

The survivor noted that the rear seat passenger instructed him to hurry up and exit the airplane after it came to rest. The rear passenger remained in the rear seat in a normal seated fashion. Her seat belt was still buckled and attached to the airframe; the webbing was not compromised. The medical examiner noted a 1/2-inch laceration of the lower lip and that the maxillary tooth No. 9 was dislodged and had broken through the gum line. The medical examiner diagnosed the rear seat passenger's cause of death as inhalation of combustion products.

Cargo occupied the entire left rear seat and floor area. It was as high as the rear passenger's head. A piece of carry on luggage was wedged between her legs and the front seat. It required several attempts by rescue personnel to dislodge this piece of luggage.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

A representative from Textron Lycoming and the Safety Board investigator examined the wreckage at Kenny's Mobile Aircraft Service on August 21, 1999. The Safety Board investigator established control continuity for all flight controls. All of the torque rods were connected at each end. Two rods fractured with irregular and angular fracture surfaces; the other tubes were bent or buckled.

Both propeller blades exhibited leading edge gouges and chordwise scratches on the cambered side.

The engine rotated freely and the valves moved in sequence. Investigators obtained thumb compression for all cylinders. They removed both magnetos and each terminal sparked when manually rotated. The engine data plate specified the magneto to engine timing should be set at 25 degrees before top dead center (BTDC). Investigators determined the left and right magneto settings were 21/20 degrees BTDC, respectively. The magnetos internal timing (E-gap) was within manufacturer's recommended limits.

The spark plugs were elliptical but exhibited no mechanical deformation. All spark plugs were gray in color except both plugs for cylinder No. 2 and the bottom plug for cylinder No. 4, which were oily. According to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug AV-27 Chart, this corresponded to normal operation. Investigators observed chafing of the top ignition harness wires for cylinder Nos. 1 and 3. The wires were wrapped in red duct tape in this area. Investigators tested the wires with a lead tester and discovered no discrepancies.

The engine driven fuel pump operated manually and the diaphragm was undamaged. The inlet line to the fuel injection servo was displaced aft at the attach fitting. The servo's internal screen was clean but fractured at the attach fitting. The fuel nozzles were clear, and the diaphragm in the fuel manifold distribution valve was pliant and undamaged.

The recovery agent measured 2.9 inches of separation between the elevator hinges. The manufacturer reported this equated to the nose down portion of the takeoff trim position.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The Safety Board released the wreckage to the owner's representative.

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