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N574DJ accident description

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Crash location 35.872223°N, 82.344722°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Burnsville, NC
35.112373°N, 80.244506°W
129.3 miles away

Tail number N574DJ
Accident date 20 Sep 2002
Aircraft type Mooney M20R
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On September 20, 2002, at 1837 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20R, N574DJ, registered to Yancey Aviation LLC and operated by the commercial pilot, collided with trees and caught fire during an attempted landing at the Mountain Air Country Club Airport in Burnsville, North Carolina. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The pilot and passenger received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed by post-impact fire. The flight departed Asheville Regional Airport in Asheville, North Carolina, on September 20, 2002, at an undetermined time.

The pilot received wind information from a pilot monitoring the airport UNICOM, then announced she would make a low pass over runway 14 to observe the windsocks. The pilot stated on the radio that conditions were bumpy, then announced she would attempt a landing on runway 14, and, if unsuccessful, she would divert to Asheville, North Carolina.

Several witnesses outside on the decks of a country club and a restaurant adjacent to the mountaintop runway observed the airplane make a low pass down runway 14, then enter the traffic pattern. Witnesses reported seeing the airplane on a low, flat final approach to runway 14 with its gear and flaps down. One witness stated the airplane appeared as if it were going to land directly on the numbers, but just prior to reaching the end of the runway, it suddenly banked left and dropped down the mountainside out of view. Two other witnesses reported the airplane appeared to pitch up and bank left, then drop from view. The witnesses then heard a loud crash and observed smoke. The witnesses ran toward the smoke and observed the airplane in flames on the wooded slope below the left side of the runway.


The pilot held a commercial certificate issued March 29, 1991, with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. The pilot held a third class medical dated January 5, 2001, with the restriction, "must have available glasses for near vision." Remnants of a pilot log retrieved from the wreckage disclosed that the pilot recorded more than 2600 hours flight time, including approximately 250 hours flight time in the accident airplane since April 9, 2001.


The Mooney M20R was manufactured in 1994 and powered by a Teledyne Continental IO-550-G series engine. The airframe, propeller, and engine logs were not recovered. A review of work orders provided by a maintenance facility revealed an annual inspection was completed on March 18, 2002, at an airframe total time of 1141.2 hours. A work order dated August 16, 2002, recorded the airframe total time at 1245.6 hours.


The Asheville Regional Airport, Asheville, North Carolina, automated surface observation system reported at 1754 winds were 140 degrees magnetic at 3 knots, sky conditions broken at 2400 feet above ground level, temperature 22 degrees Celsius, dew point 19 degrees Celsius, altimeter 30.02 inches. The weather reporting facility is 28 nautical miles southwest of the accident site at an elevation of 2165 feet. Witnesses at the Mountain Air Country Club Airport, Burnsville, North Carolina, described the wind conditions as generally from the east southeast with gusts from 5 to 15 knots, and one witness stated there was a wind gust of 10 knots from the northwest while the airplane was on final approach.


Mountain Air Country Club Airport, Burnsville, North Carolina, was a private, mountaintop airport with an elevation of 4436 feet. The paved surface for runways 32 and 14 was 2875 feet long and 50 feet wide. Runway 14 began atop a steeply sloping terrace with an abrupt drop-off at the approach end, departure end, and left side of the threshold. The published Airport Information Summary card stated, "Runway 32 has an uphill incline of 46 feet. Runway 14, thus, downhill 46 feet. Recommended approach unless there is significant tailwind is runway 32." The card also stated, "High banks on right hand side of approach ends of both runway 14 and 32, within 20 feet of edge of pavement .... Mountainous terrain in area. Caution: Mountain turbulence, approach downdrafts, density altitude."


Examination of the accident site revealed wreckage debris was scattered over an area 80 feet long and 50 feet wide. The wreckage path was oriented on a 153-degree magnetic heading. The main fuselage, right wing, and engine assembly were heavily fire damaged and found approximately 75 feet down slope from a freshly felled tree approximately 16 inches in diameter. The left wing was separated and found approximately 35 feet down slope from the felled tree. The felled tree displayed a propeller slash mark approximately four inches deep about 30 feet above the tree base. The propeller hub and flange were separated with all three blades attached and was found embedded in the ground beneath the right wing. Each propeller blade displayed chordwise scoring.

Examination of the airframe revealed the nose and cabin sections were consumed by fire, and the fuselage skin was melted away. The aft empennage, vertical fin, and rudder remained intact. The primary flight control push-pull tubes were exposed and had been cut by emergency response personnel during extraction. Examination of the aileron, flap, and elevator control surfaces, attachment points, rod ends, and push-pull tubes revealed no evidence of pre-impact mechanical malfunction or failure.

Examination of the engine revealed the intake system, exhaust system, and oil cooler were impact and fire damaged. The aft engine mount legs were separated. The oil sump was crushed upward with the oil dipstick tube protruding through the bottom. The oil pickup tube was impact damaged, and the oil screen was clean. Cylinders no. 1, 3, and 5 were impact and fire damaged, and cylinders no. 2, 4, and 6 were fire damaged. The piston domes were clean and dark in color. The accessory section, including the magnetos, fuel pump, and vacuum pump, was impact and fire damaged. The fuel injector lines, throttle body, and metering unit sustained impact and fire damage that precluded movement of the throttle arm and butterfly valve. There was no evidence of pre-impact mechanical malfunction or failure.


Autopsy was performed on the pilot by Watauga Medical Center, Boone, North Carolina. The cause of death was multiple trauma. Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The report stated no ethanol was detected in the blood.


Published safety information from the Mountain Air Pilot's Association stated pilots unfamiliar with the airport should divert to Asheville, North Carolina, in wind conditions greater than 10 knots or if winds are favoring runway 14. The pilot had flown into the airport for several years and was familiar with landing on runway 14.

About 1600 on the day of accident flight, the pilot brought the airplane to a maintenance facility in Tifton, Georgia, to have a brake caliper checked after a small amount of fluid was observed on the ground near one main gear wheel. The mechanic told the pilot a brake caliper seal was seeping slightly. According to the mechanic, the pilot elected to postpone the repair, because the hydraulic reservoir was full of fluid, and the brakes were functioning normally.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.