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N5763W accident description

Connecticut map... Connecticut list
Crash location 41.462222°N, 73.127778°W
Nearest city Oxford, CT
41.430096°N, 73.134833°W
2.2 miles away
Tail number N5763W
Accident date 23 May 2004
Aircraft type Mooney M20J
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On May 23, 2004, about 2108 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20J, N5763W, was substantially damaged during an approach to Waterbury-Oxford Airport (OXC), Oxford, Connecticut. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed Burlington International Airport (BTV), Burlington, Vermont. An instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The flight proceeded uneventfully to the Connecticut area. The pilot contacted the sector controller at New York approach control about 2055. At that time, the airplane was approximately 8 miles northeast of OXC. The controller advised that the tower would be closing at 2100, before the pilot landed, and that he could cancel the IFR clearance via clearance delivery frequency. The pilot acknowledged the transmission.

About 2100, the approach controller advised the pilot that a Cessna 208 had just landed at OXC. At that time, the OXC tower controller advised the New York approach controller that the tower was closing for the evening, but provided the current weather to relay to the pilot. The New York approach controller relayed the weather information, and the pilot acknowledged the transmission. The weather information included scattered clouds at 200 feet, visibility 2 miles, wind 080 degrees at 6 knots, and an altimeter setting of 29.98 inches Hg.

About 2103, the approach controller cleared the pilot for the ILS Runway 36 approach. The pilot acknowledged the transmission.

About 2104, the approach controller stated that the tower was closed, radar services were terminated, frequency change was approved, and the pilot could cancel the IFR clearance in the air or on the ground. The pilot acknowledged the transmission. No further transmissions were received from the accident airplane.

Review of radar data revealed that the airplane intercepted the localizer course and crossed the final approach fix (SICOR) about 2,700 feet. The last radar target was recorded at 2107:21, which indicated that the airplane was 2.75 miles from the runway, at an altitude of 1,900 feet.

A witness stated that he was standing in his yard, and heard a low flying airplane, with the engine running continuously. Just prior to the accident, the witness heard the engine rev to high power, and observed lights over the treetops. He then heard the sound of an impact as the airplane came to rest at an adjacent residence. The witness estimated that at the time of the accident, fog was present near the treetops, with visibility less than 1 mile.

Another witness was standing at an ice cream shop approximately 2 miles south of the airport, about 1955. She reported seeing a small airplane flying low, near a "lightning cloud." The witness' attention was distracted by her daughter, and when the witness looked up again, she did not see the airplane.

According to the tower manager at OXC, the accident site was located about 1/2-mile prior to runway 36, and 1,000 feet east of the extended runway centerline.

The accident occurred during the hours of night; located about 42 degrees, 27.74 minutes north latitude, and 73 degrees, 07.67 minutes west longitude.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate, with ratings for single engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical certificate was issued on October 29, 2002. According to the pilot's logbook, he had accumulated a total flight experience of approximately 482 hours; of which, 65 hours were in actual instrument conditions. During the 90 days preceding the accident, the pilot accumulated about 31 hours; of which, all hours were in the accident airplane, and 4.5 hours were in actual instrument conditions.


The airplane's most recent annual inspection was performed on April 21, 2004. At that time, the airplane had accumulated 1,214.5 total hours of operation. The airplane had accumulated about 29 additional hours of operation since the last annual inspection.


The pilot telephoned the Burlington, Vermont, automated flight service station (FSS), about 1720. The pilot advised the weather briefer that he was planning an IFR trip from BTV, to OXC, in a single engine airplane. The pilot added that he had been watching the weather radar all day due to thunderstorms, and asked about the current and forecast conditions at OXC.

The weather briefer informed the pilot of a convective SIGMET along the route of flight, valid until 2100. The briefer also provided the current location of thunderstorm cells. He then provided the current weather at OXC, and the forecast at Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The reported weather at OXC, at 2115, was: wind 070 degrees at 8 knots; visibility 3 miles; broken ceiling at 200 feet; temperature 70 degrees F; dew point 68 degrees F; altimeter 29.88 inches Hg; lightning in the distance northeast of the airport.

Review of a NEXRAD weather radar imagery for 2056:32, revealed light intensity echoes near OXC.


Review of a current approach plate for the ILS Runway 36 at OXC revealed that the crossing height at SICOR intersection was 2,500 feet. The decision height was 971 feet, with an airport elevation of 726 feet.

Runway 36 was equipped with precision approach path indicator lights, runway end identifier lights, and high intensity runway lights.

Following the accident, the FAA conducted a flight inspection of the ILS Runway 36 approach. The inspection revealed that the ILS was operating satisfactorily.


The wreckage was examined at the accident site on May 24 and 25, 2004. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. A debris path was observed, which originated from an approximate 80-foot tree located in the front yard of a residence. The outboard section of the right wing was found in the tree, at a height of approximately 50 feet. The debris path was approximately 190 feet long, along a heading of 080 degrees. Smaller trees, with the tops sheared off, were located about 80 feet along the debris path. The first ground scar was located about 110 feet along the debris path. Red lens fragments, consistent with the left wing navigation light, were found in the ground scar. A crater was located about 130 feet along the debris path, and the main wreckage was at the end of the debris path.

The main wreckage was inverted, and oriented about a heading of 100 degrees. Witnesses reported a strong fuel odor after the accident, and vegetation near the wreckage was discolored. The landing gear was observed in the extended position. The empennage had separated, and was lying inverted near the main wreckage. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the rudder and elevator to the forward section of the empennage.

The right inboard section of wing remained attached to the airframe. The right wing had separated near the mid-flap location. The right wing sustained impact damage to the leading edge. Due to impact damage, flight control continuity could not be confirmed for the right wing.

The left wing had separated at the root, and was lying next to the inboard portion of the right wing. The left flap remained attached at two inboard hinges. The left aileron remained attached to the wing, and was bent downward. The push-pull tube was attached to the left aileron, but the tube had separated in the wing consistent with impact forces. The left wing sustained leading edge damage, and the left wingtip separated.

The cockpit and cabin area were crushed inward at the roof and firewall area. The fuel selector was found positioned to the left fuel tank. A flap motor jackscrew measurement corresponded to a partially extended flap position. An elevator trim indicator jackscrew measurement corresponded to an approximate "takeoff" position setting. The throttle control, mixture control, and propeller control levers were found in the full forward position.

The engine remained attached to the airframe, and was folded underneath the right wing. Both propeller blades exhibited chordwise scratching and leading edge gouging. The top spark plugs were removed from the engine for inspection. Their electrodes were intact, and light gray in color. The valve covers were removed for inspection, and oil was noted in all cylinders. The engine was recovered and the propeller was rotated by hand. Thumb compression was obtained on all cylinders. Camshaft, crankshaft, and valve train continuity was confirmed.

Disassembly of the attitude indicator revealed that the gyro rotor and housing were intact, with no damage noted. The vacuum pump drive shaft was found intact. Disassembly of the pump revealed the vanes were intact.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Farmington, Connecticut.

Toxicological testing was conducted on the pilot at the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


The airplanes' Bendix/King KX-165 digital navigation (NAV)/communication (COM) unit was tested by the manufacturer under the supervision of an FAA inspector. The information recovered from the memory revealed that the active COM channel was set to 132.97 Mhz, which was the frequency for the automated weather observation system at OXC. The standby COM channel was set to 135.1 Mhz, which was the frequency used to cancel IFR flight plans when the control tower was closed . The active NAV channel was set to 109.55, which was the frequency for the ILS Runway 36 at OXC. The unit tested satisfactorily.

Memory could not be recovered from the Bendix/King KNS-80 unit.

The Ameri-King AK-950 GPS/NAV Switching and Annunciator Panel was forwarded to the manufacturer for examination under the supervision of an FAA inspector. The GPS/NAV button was depressed, consistent with a GPS selection. However, the wiring of the unit was consistent with an override feature, which would automatically select NAV if an ILS frequency was tuned.


The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on May 25, 2004.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain altitude/clearance during an instrument approach, which resulted in a collision with trees prior to the runway. Factors were nighttime conditions and cloud cover.

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