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N231HU accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Counts, VA
36.928439°N, 82.226249°W

Tail number N231HU
Accident date 12 Mar 1999
Aircraft type Mooney M20K
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On March 12, 1999, at 1215 Eastern Standard Time, a Mooney M20K, N231HU, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain near Counts, Virginia. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured, and visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed for the business flight from Lake Norman Airpark (14A), Mooresville, North Carolina, to Clermont County Airport (I69), Batavia, Ohio. The flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

A witness stated that he had intended to buy the accident airplane from the pilot, who was listed as the president of the corporation that owned it. The day before the accident, the pilot flew the airplane to Mooresville for a pre-purchase inspection. During the inspection, which occurred on the morning of the accident, the witness determined that the airplane was not acceptable, and cancelled the sale. He observed the pilot become "quite upset," and heard him state that he "needed the money." The pilot was later seen getting into the airplane, which departed the airport about 1150.

There was no evidence that the pilot communicated with any air traffic control facilities during the flight.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight, and the airplane impacted terrain at 37 degrees, 07.12 minutes north, 82 degrees, 17.88 minutes west.


The 25 year-old pilot had been issued a second class medical certificate, with a restriction to wear corrective lenses, on February 2, 1998. His private pilot certificate was issued on November 21, 1998. His total flight time was estimated to be about 167 hours, with about 116 hours in the accident airplane.

According to the pilot's flight instructor, the pilot purchased the accident airplane prior to being qualified for student solo flight. Another witness stated that when the pilot purchased the airplane, his business was flourishing. Five months later, the pilot stated to the same witness that the business "had fallen on hard times," and that he had to sell the airplane.


The airplane was acquired by the pilot's corporation, under his signature, on October 16, 1998.

As a result of the pre-purchase inspection on the day of the accident, numerous mechanical discrepancies were found on the airplane. They included the fuel flow being too high, the right magneto inoperative, low pressure on two engine cylinders that also exhibited evidence of "ring blow-by," two exhaust manifolds leaking, various oil leaks, an inaccurate fuel gauge, a spongy left brake, a bad tire, wing fuel leaks, and a rusted left forward engine mount. The report also noted that the airplane did not take on any fuel at Mooresville.


The wreckage was found on the southwestern side of a wooded, 2,200-foot mountain. It was on a 30-degree slope, about 1,750 feet above sea level. All major airplane components were found at the crash site. Most components, as well as the surrounding vegetation, exhibited fire damage.

Several trees near the site were found with broken branches and trunk scoring, in a descending, 55-degree path angle. A swath angle in reference to the horizontal plane could not be determined due to the spacing of the trees. The swath was centered about an axis, in a direction of approximately 030 degrees magnetic. There was a crater at the end of the swath, about 8 feet in diameter, which varied in depth, to a maximum of 4 feet towards the upslope side of the mountain. At the bottom of the crater was a large, irregular sized boulder, which was fractured into several pieces. There was also an uprooted tree trunk, about 6 inches in diameter, which was split, and partially cut at a 45-degree angle.

The two propeller blades were found separated from the hub. One exhibited s-bending, with the outboard 6 inches missing. The other exhibited leading edge pitting, a mid-span dent along the chordwise axis, and chordwise scratching.

The engine crankshaft was fractured. Engine compression could not be established due to impact and fire damage. The cockpit and all instruments were destroyed. However, the throttle control was subsequently found with the knob in the "pulled out" position.


Although the pilot was not in radio contact with any air traffic control facilities, a transponder beacon code of 1200 was observed along the airplane's projected route of flight. That beacon code included altitudes, and terminated in the area of the crash site.

According to beacon code altitude, and radar position data, an aircraft was heading to the northwest, about 325 degrees magnetic. It was initially maintaining 8,700 feet. At 1212:51, the beacon indicated 8,600 feet, and at 1213:01, it indicated 7,700 feet. Additional altitudes and times included: 5,900 feet at 1213:41; 6,000 feet at 1213:51; 6,000 feet at 1214:01; 5,900 feet at 1214:11; 5,600 feet at 1214:21; 5,200 feet at 1214:31; 4,800 feet at 1214:41; 4,600 feet at 1214:51; 4,400 feet at 1215:01; and 3,000 feet at 1215:11.

The rate of descent calculated between 1214:31 and 1215:01, was 1,800 feet per minute. The rate of descent calculated between 1215:01 and 1215:11 was 6,400 feet per minute.


The weather, recorded 20 minutes after the accident and at an airport about 55 nautical miles to the east, was clear, with a visibility of 15 statute miles. Witnesses at the crash site confirmed that the weather had been clear at the time, with some small clouds in the area, and that the accident was first noticed when smoke rose straight into the air.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Western District, Roanoke, Virginia.

Toxicological testing was performed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Criminal Justice Services, Division of Forensic Science, Richmond, Virginia. Test results were negative for all substances tested, including ethanol and carbon monoxide.


On March 13, 1999, the wreckage was released to the Sheriff, Dickenson County, Virginia.

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