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Accident Report

Safe flying is the aim of all pilots and comes from training and experience. This accident report, provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, is presented in the interest of safety by helping pilots learn from the experience of others.

Aircraft: Mooney M20J
Where: Newellton, LA
Injuries: 2 fatal
Phase of flight
: Cruising

The single-engine airplane impacted into a cotton field following a loss of control during an in-flight encounter with a thunderstorm while on a 228-nautical mile night cross country flight. The 1,295-hour instrument rated flight instructor and student pilot were fatally injured. The flight originated under visual flight rules (VFR). While airborne the pilot observed lightning in the distance and called a Flight Service Station, via the radio, inquiring if there were any weather radar returns between their present position and their intended destination. The flight specialist responded that there was some scattered thunderstorm activity along their route and suggested the pilot deviate north in an attempt to avoid them. The flight specialist further informed the pilot of an AIRMET in effect for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) along their route of flight, with VFR flight not recommended, and that their destination airport was reporting a broken ceiling at 600-feet above ground level (AGL). The pilot acknowledged, filed, and activated an IFR flight plan to their destination via a northern route.

The pilot was in communications with two Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC) during the flight. A review of ARTCC communications with the accident airplane revealed that the pilot was not provided with any weather advisories nor was he advised of the radar-depicted weather displayed on the controller's scope. According to recorded display system information, adverse weather was located along the accident airplane's flight path. The airplane entered the depicted weather while at 8,000-feet. About 19 seconds later, radar contact was lost while the accident airplane was at 4,400-feet. The airplane came to rest in an upright position. There was no postcrash fire. The fuselage was found crushed downward in a manner consistent with a near vertical flat impact. The horizontal stabilizer had failed in positive (upward) while the one piece wing was found separated mid span, having failed in negative (downward). The examination revealed no pre impact anomalies with the airplane's controls or engine.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's continued flight into adverse weather conditions. Contributing factors were the prevailing thunderstorms, the dark night conditions, and Air Traffic Control's failure to issue hazardous weather information to the pilot.

Source: National Transportation Board

Aircraft: Mooney M20K
Where: North Plains, OR
Injuries: 1 fatal
Phase of Flight: Landing

A Mooney M20K was destroyed when it impacted terrain following a loss of aircraft control near North Plains, Oregon. The instrument rated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal, local flight that originated from Portland-Hillsboro Airport, Hillsboro, Oregon, approximately 45 minutes before the accident. The pilot had not filed a flight plan.

A friend of the pilot said that the pilot had purchased a new global positioning system (GPS) receiver and wanted to practice flying with it. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel, radar data indicated that after takeoff, the airplane maneuvered in an area south of Hillsboro Airport. At 1046:30, the pilot contacted Hillsboro Airport (ATC) tower requesting a practice VFR Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach to runway 12. At 1052:25, the pilot reported that he was approaching Dolla final approach fix; three minutes later the pilot told ATC that he was losing power and he needed to "put down." The pilot's last transmission was at 1056:05, and he said "there's a grass strip here." Several residents of Sunset Air Strip, North Plains, Oregon, reported hearing a loud noise; subsequently they found the airplane adjacent to one of their taxiways in a filbert nut orchard. The residents reported that they did not smell any fuel fumes when they arrived at the aircraft.

A witness, who was driving east on US-26, approximately 3/8 statute mile from the accident scene, reported seeing the accident airplane enter a hard right turn at approximately 300 to 400 feet above the ground. He said the nose of the aircraft dropped 30 to 40 degrees, and the aircraft remained steeply banked until it disappeared from his sight. The witness, who was a certificated pilot, said "it looked very much like a spin entry."


The pilot's most recent Federal Aviation Administration flight medical exam (third class) was taken on August 10. The pilot's personal flight logbook indicated that he satisfactorily completed a biennial flight review and an instrument competency check. The pilot completed an application for aircraft insurance and on that application he stated that he had 1,068 flight hours, with 672 hours in make and model.


At 1053, the weather conditions at Portland-Hillsboro Airport (elevation 204 feet), Portland, Oregon, located 120 degrees magnetic and 4 nautical miles from the accident site, were: wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; overcast clouds at 7,500 feet; temperature 45 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 43 degrees Fahrenheit; altimeter setting 30.25 inches.


The airplane was found in a filbert nut orchard aligned with runway 12 at Hillsboro Airport, approximately 4 nautical miles from the runway threshold. The filbert orchard was bordered on one side by a residential private turf airstrip called Sunset Air Strip, North Plains, Oregon. Two of the filbert trees (height approximately 12 to 15 feet) had branches separated from them. All of the airplane's major components were accounted for at the accident site. The landing gear was found in the down position. The propeller assembly, with its crankshaft propeller attachment flange, was found buried in the mud, and the airplane's main body was located 36 feet away on a 070 degree magnetic bearing.

Both wings remained attached at their wing roots. The left wing had a 20 inch aft deformation approximately 3 feet inboard from its tip; this deformation was consistent with impact with a tree. The right wing was separated at the half way point, and the outboard half was rotated forward and inverted. The area of the fuselage, aft of the cabin, was circumferentially compressed and crushed. The engine, the flight and engine controls, and the instrument panel were rotated forward approximately 90 degrees.

The engine was extracted from the wreckage with the aid of an engine hoist. An external inspection revealed that the oil sump was breeched and only residual oil remained in the engine. Analysis of the engine could not be completed in the field due to impact damage to the forward end of the crankshaft. Five days later, the engine case was split, and no anomalies were identified. The propeller blades exhibited few leading edge nicks or gouges, nor were chord wise striations evident; one blade was bent approximately 30 degrees aft. The spinner exhibited minimum rotational deformation and aft crushing.

No pre-impact engine or airframe anomalies, which might have affected the airplane's performance, were identified. No fuel was found in the airplane.


The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report, the pilot's blood was tested for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and volatiles (ethanol) with negative results; the liver was tested for drugs with negative results.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's failure to maintain airspeed while maneuvering for a forced landing, resulting in a stall-spin and uncontrolled descent to ground impact. A contributing factor was the loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion resulting from the pilot's inadequate preflight planning.

Aircraft: Mooney M20S
Where:Port Huron, MI
Phase of flight:Landing

A Mooney M20S, operated by a private pilot, collided with a snow bank while landing on runway 04 (5,103 feet by 100 feet.) The pilot was not injured and the airplane was substantially damaged. The 14 CFR Part 91 flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan.

The pilot reported he flew a practice ILS approach to runway 04. The approach was terminated in a go-around followed by VFR traffic pattern and full stop landing on runway 04. He reported the winds were out of the northwest at 10 knots. He then departed on runway 04 and made a left hand traffic pattern for another landing. The pilot reported, "Final approach required minimal crab to correct for crosswind and then mild slip to maintain the centerline." He reported that just prior to touchdown while 2 feet above the runway "'a significant gust ballooned the aircraft 5-6 ft. above the runway where the aircraft stalled and began to settle abruptly with a nose high attitude." He reported he applied power to recover, but could not gain enough airspeed. The airplane veered to the right and the right main landing gear contacted the snow on the side of the runway. According to the pilot, the airplane spun around clockwise into the snow where it came to rest.

The local weather observation, taken 5 minutes prior to the accident, reported winds from 270 degrees at 11 knots, gusting to 18 knots.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident/incident as follows: The pilot failed to maintain directional control of the airplane and the runway selected resulted in a tailwind condition. Factors associated with the accident were the gusty crosswind and the snow bank.

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