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C-FRSK accident description

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Tail numberC-FRSK
Accident dateMarch 16, 2008
Aircraft typeMooney M20C
LocationAtkins, VA
Near 36.933056 N, -81.381667 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On March 16, 2008, at 1034 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20C, Canadian registration C-FRSK, was destroyed when it impacted terrain in the Jefferson National Forest, near Atkins, Virginia. The Canadian-certificated private pilot and the passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the site; however, initiation of the event likely occurred in instrument meteorological conditions. The airplane was operating on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan from Yeager Airport (CRW), Charleston, West Virginia, to Craig Municipal Airport (CRG), Jacksonville, Florida. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to information contained in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control accident package, the airplane departed Yeager Airport about 0950, and the pilot contacted Indianapolis Center at 1007. At 1011, the pilot was cleared to 7,000 feet, and reported level at that altitude at 1014. At 1022, the pilot requested a lower altitude due to icing, and the controller cleared him to 6,200 feet, stating, "that's as low as I can go."

About 1024, the pilot advised the controller that the airplane was at 6,200 feet, and the controller directed the pilot to contact Atlanta Center and maintain that altitude, which the pilot acknowledged.

About 1026, the pilot advised Atlanta Center, "we're picking up quite a bit of ice, any way we can get out of it?" The controller responded that the lowest IFR altitude was 6,200 feet and that he did not see any precipitation depicted on the radar in the airplane's area, but then cleared the pilot to deviate left or right but maintain the 6,200 feet.

At 1028, the controller directed the pilot to turn left 30 degrees due to higher terrain at 7,500 feet, 12 o'clock and 5 miles, which the pilot acknowledged.

At 1030, the controller advised the pilot that another pilot, in an airplane about 30 miles to the east at 8,000 feet, reported estimated cloud tops at 7,500 feet, which the pilot acknowledged. The controller subsequently asked the pilot if he'd like to climb to 8,000 feet, and the pilot responded, "affirmative."

At 1030:36, the controller advised the pilot to climb and maintain 8,000 feet, which the pilot acknowledged.

At 1033:23, the controller cleared the airplane direct to Craig, which the pilot acknowledged.

At 1033:48, the pilot stated, "…we're going down." The controller asked the pilot if he was picking up ice again, and the pilot responded, "affirmative."

At 1034:02, the controller told the pilot to maintain whatever altitude he could, "my lowest in that area is six thousand feet," and advised the pilot that there was an airport 2 miles to his right, "can you see that?"

There were no further transmissions from the airplane

At 1034:38, the controller stated, "Charlie fox romeo sierra kilo radar contact lost."

Radar data indicated that the airplane climbed to 6,500 feet, then descended to 6,400 feet for one "hit" before losing altitude reporting. The last radar contact with altitude reporting occurred in the vicinity of 36 degrees, 55.9 minutes north latitude, 81 degrees, 23.1 minutes west longitude.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot, age 36, held a Canadian private pilot license which did not include an instrument rating. The pilot's logbook indicated 327 hours of total flight time, with 10 hours of actual instrument time, and 10 hours of simulated instrument time flown in 1996. The pilot's latest Canadian Medical Certificate was issued on May 24, 2005.

The pilot's logbook did not reflect a recent flight review; however, according to Canadian Aviation Regulations paragraph 401.05(1), a periodic flight review would not have been required of the pilot if he exercised the privileges of his license as pilot-in-command within the previous 5 years.

According to records found in the airplane, on March 14, 2008, the pilot flew it from Buttonville Municipal Airport (CYKZ), Buttonville, Ontario, to Buffalo International Airport (BUF), Buffalo, New York. On March 15, 2008, the pilot flew the airplane from Buffalo to Charleston. The previous flight before those two flights occurred on January 16, 2008.

AIRPLANE INFORMATION

The airplane was not approved for known icing conditions.

According to the Aircraft Journey Log, the latest annual inspection was performed on the airplane on September 20, 2007, at 4,249 hours of operation.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The wreckage was located in a heavily forested area, at 36 degrees, 55.9 minutes north latitude, 81 degrees, 22.9 minutes west longitude. Broken tree branches indicated an almost vertical descent. The engine and propeller were mostly buried in the ground. After recovery, examination of engine and propeller spinner exhibited forward-to-aft crushing damage. One propeller blade exhibited chordwise scratching and blade tip s-bending. The other propeller blade exhibited no leading edge damage, and was bent, near the hub, under the engine.

All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident scene. The leading edges of both wings were compressed aft. Flight control continuity could not be confirmed due to extensive push rod fracturing. The landing gear were up, and the position of the flap actuator correlated to the flaps being up. The cockpit was destroyed.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Weather, recorded at 1040, at an airport about 5 nautical miles to the south, and approximately the same elevation as the accident site, included an overcast cloud layer at 1,400 feet, winds from 300 degrees true at 9 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, temperature 4 degrees Celsius, dew point not reported, and an altimeter setting of 30.15 inches of mercury.

The pilot first contacted Raleigh Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) on March 15, 2008, at 1956, in order to obtain a weather briefing and file a flight plan. After discussing the en route weather conditions with the specialist, the pilot opted to remain in Charleston overnight.

On March 16, 2008, at 0627, the pilot again contacted Raleigh AFSS for a weather briefing and to file a flight plan. The conversation lasted about 35 minutes, and during that time, the specialist advised the pilot of IFR conditions in Bluefield, West Virginia, and marginal VFR conditions at Wytheville, Virginia, with mountain obscuration en route. The pilot noted that he could depart IFR, although, "I'm a low time IFR pilot so I don't want to get into any icing or anything…" The forecast freezing level was 2,000 feet. Cloud tops, about the time of the briefing, were indicated about 8,000 feet at Charleston, and at Roanoke, Virginia, cloud tops were estimated to be "about fourteen fifteen thousand feet." At Bristol, Tennessee, a lower cloud layer topped out at 8000 to 9,000 feet with a second layer beginning at 14,000 to 15,000 feet, topping out at 18,000 feet. There was also an advisory for moderate turbulence over North Carolina.

The pilot subsequently filed an IFR flight plan, at 6,000 feet, direct to Craig Field.

MEDICAL AND TOXICOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Virginia Department of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Roanoke, Virginia, and the cause of death was determined to be "massive head, chest and abdominal blunt force trauma."

Toxicological testing was subsequently performed, both at the Medical Examiner's Office and by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with no anomalies noted.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

In a letter response on another matter to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, dated January 16, 2009, the FAA provided an interpretation of "known ice" as it related to general aviation. Among the points made in the letter, "'known icing conditions" involve…circumstances where a reasonable pilot would expect a substantial likelihood of ice formation on the aircraft based upon all information available to that pilot. The letter also noted that the Safety Board "has held on a number of occasions that known icing conditions exist when a pilot knows or reasonably should know about weather reports in which icing conditions are reported or forecast. In those cases, the pilots chose to continue their flights without implementing an icing exit strategy or an alternate course of action…."

The FAA letter also stated that "area forecasts alone are generally too broad to adequately inform a pilot of known icing conditions," and "may cover a large geographic area or represent too long a span of time to be particularly useful to a pilot."

The letter further noted that, "pilots should not expose themselves or others to the risk associated with flying into conditions in which ice is likely to adhere to an aircraft. If ice is detected or observed along the route of flight, the pilot should have a viable exit strategy…."

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