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N201KM accident description

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Tail numberN201KM
Accident dateOctober 04, 2003
Aircraft typeMooney M20J
LocationGrantsville, UT
Near 40.628611 N, -112.942222 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 4, 2003, approximately 1310 mountain daylight time, a Mooney M20J, N201KM, registered to Aerie Aviation, LLC, of Wilmington, Delaware, and operated by the pilot, impacted mountainous terrain while maneuvering 29 miles west of Grantsville, Utah. Two passengers were fatally injured, and the airline transport certificated pilot and another passenger (spouse) were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. No flight plan had been filed for the personal flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at Salt Lake City, Utah, at 0950.

According to the pilot's written statement submitted with his accident report, "The purpose of the flight was to locate and photograph raptor nests in the area west of Tooele, Utah." It was part of a volunteer program for the Bureau of Land Management's Raptor Inventory Nest Survey. The airplane was serviced with 43 gallons of fuel that, according to the pilot, brought the total fuel on board to 50 gallons (64 gallons possible, see fuel invoice exhibit). Salt Lake City control tower issued the pilot a departure clearance to Tooele at 1008, and the airplane took off at 1013. According to FAA documents, TRACON (terminal radar control) terminated radar services at 1022 when the airplane was westbound and 8 miles west of the airport. The pilot then contacted Hill Air Force Base's Clover Control and received authorization to transit military airspace. The pilot said that approximately two hour later, the flight exited "the eastern boundary of Clover's airspace, crossed the Cedar Mountains, turned south, and flew along the east side of the Cedars between 6,000 and 7,000 feet msl."

The pilot said: "At the time of the accident, the aircraft was flying clockwise around a rock outcropping approximately 8 miles south of Interstate [highway] 80. As the aircraft passed through a southwesterly heading, the passenger occupying the right front seat leaned forward and began pointing toward the front of the aircraft with his left arm at what was assumed to be a bird's nest. The passenger maintained this position and called out several times to the rear seat passengers, 'There, there it is!' Unfortunately, the passenger's position obscured the pilot's view from the center post of the windscreen through the starboard [right] side window during a portion of the clockwise turn. Shortly before impact, a climbing right turn was initiated, but the left wing contacted the terrain and the aircraft came to rest against a rock outcropping."

According to the Tooele County Sheriff's Office, they received a 9-1-1 cellular telephone call from the pilot at 1326. He reported the airplane had crashed and gave his approximate position. He said he had pulled one of the passengers out of the airplane via the baggage door, and asked for instructions on how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He indicated that the passenger was severely injured, possibly deceased. The telephone signal was then lost. Aided by ELT (emergency transmitter locator) signals, two F-16s from Hill Air Force Base spotted the wreckage near Hastings Pass in Skull Valley. Rescuers reached the accident site via helicopter, and the survivors were airlifted to a local hospital.

An attempt was made to interview the pilot at the hospital, but he declined. Several months later, he was interviewed by a telephone conference call with his attorney present. He confirmed the sequence of events contained in his accident report. He also stated that while maneuvering the airplane, he used a power setting between 15 and 17 inches of manifold pressure and 2,500 rpm that produced between 80 and 90 knots indicated airspeed. He said the engine was developing power up to the moment of impact.

The accident occurred in daylight visual meteorological conditions at a location of 40 degrees, 37.772 minutes north latitude, and 112 degrees, 56.541 minutes west longitude, at an elevation of 6,300 feet msl.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 40, held an airline transport pilot certificate, dated January 16, 2003, with an airplane multiengine land rating, and commercial privileges in airplanes single-engine land. He also held a flight instructor certificate, dated December 12, 2002, with airplane single/multiengine and instrument ratings, and a ground instructor certificate, dated January 16, 2003, with advanced and instrument ratings. His first class airman medical certificate, dated December 27, 2000, contained no restrictions or limitations. His last flight review was dated December 14, 2002, and was done in N201KM.

A photostatic copy of a portion of the pilot's logbook, containing entries between November 16, 2002, and September 28, 2003, was made available for inspection. According to these records, the following was recorded (in hours):

Total time: 2,611.3 Airplane, single-engine, land: 2,506.0 Airplane, multiengine, land: 106.8 Airplane, complex: 1,019.0 Rotorcraft-helicopter: 3.1 Pilot-in-Command: 2,531.6 Instruction received: 155.6 Instruction given: 841.8 Cross-country: 2,270.4 Night: 487.0 Actual instruments: 63.0 Simulated instruments: 99.0 Ground trainer: 26.1

The pilot estimated he had logged 600 hours in Mooney M20s.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

Mooney Aircraft Corporation of Kerrville, Texas, manufactured N201KM (s/n 24-0457), a model M20J, in 1978. It was equipped with a Lycoming IO-360-A3B6D engine (s/n L-2577-51A), rated at 200 horsepower, driving a McCauley 2-blade all-metal, constant speed propeller (m/n B2D34C214).

According to the maintenance records, the airframe and engine were given an annual/100-hour inspection, respectively, on February 4, 2003. At that time, the airplane had accrued 5,625.8 hours (tachometer 1,965.6), and the engine (which was manufactured in 1991) had accrued 1,637.8 hours since major overhaul. At the time of the accident, an additional 167 hours had been accrued on both the airframe and engine. The pitot-static system, altimeter, encoder, and transponder were tested and certified for IFR use on October 15, 2001.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The following Automatic Surface Observation Station (ASOS) observations were recorded at 1256 and 1356, respectively, at Salt Lake City International Airport (see exhibits):

Wind, variable at 5 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles (or greater); sky condition, few clouds at 8,500 feet, scattered clouds at 13,000 and 25,000 feet; temperature, 23 degrees C.; dew point, 6 degrees C.; altimeter, 30.02 inches of mercury; sea level pressure, 1012.7 Mb.

Wind, 340 degrees at 7 knots, 310 degrees variable to 010 degrees; visibility, 10 statute miles (or greater); sky condition, few clouds at 8,500 feet, scattered clouds at 13,000 and 25,000 feet; temperature, 24 degrees C.; dew point, 7 degrees C.; altimeter, 30.00 inches of mercury; sea level pressure, 1011.9 Mb.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

On October 5, a failed attempt was made to reach the wreckage by foot. Using a helicopter, access to the wreckage was gained on October 7. Ground scars, wreckage debris, and airframe deformation were consistent with the left wing making initial contact with the east slope of a north-south ridge. The energy path was aligned on a magnetic heading of 350 degrees. The slope of the ridge was between 25 and 35 degrees. The nose then struck the ground, as evidenced by a crater 50 feet away, and the cowling slid about 300 feet downhill. Ground scar and the energy path indicate the airplane spun counter-clockwise, striking the ground 100 feet beyond the initial impact point. The left wing was torn off and was located 15 south of the main wreckage. The outboard portion of the right wing (about 10 feet of wing remain attached to the fuselage) was located 80 feet from the main wreckage. The airplane slid downhill about 25 feet before coming to a halt upright on a magnetic heading of 272 degrees.

The landing gear was up and the flaps were retracted. All major structural components and primary flight controls were accounted for, and control continuity was established. Cockpit examination revealed the altimeter indicated 5,310 feet msl, and 30.01 inches of mercury was set in the Kollsman window.

The engine was examined on site. The top spark plugs had a light gray-brown color at the electrodes and were free of mechanical damage. Borescoping the cylinders revealed no discrepancies. Fuel was found in the flow divider and injection servo.

SURVIVAL ASPECTS

When rescuers arrived on the scene, they said the pilot's seat was still in place in the airplane. They found the deceased male passenger, who had been seated in the right front seat, outside and downhill from the wreckage. His seat had been pushed into the aft cabin by impact. They said the other deceased passenger, a female, was in the right rear seat, and the pilot's surviving wife was in the left rear seat. The latter was found "sandwiched" between the two deceased passengers and was probably the reason why she survived. When interviewed by telephone, however, the pilot said this had not been the seating arrangement. He said that when they boarded the airplane, his wife was in the right rear seat and the deceased female passenger was behind him in the left rear seat. He also stated all occupants were wearing their seatbelts, and he and the front seat passenger were also wearing their shoulder harnesses.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, designated parties to the investigation included Textron Lycoming engines.

The wreckage was released to the insurance company on December 16, 2003.

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