NTSB Identification: NYC00FA118.
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Accident occurred Friday, April 21, 2000 in NORTON, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/09/2001
Aircraft: Mooney M20J, registration: N5632H
Injuries: 5 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Prior to departure the pilot received a weather briefing, which included flight advisories for icing along his intended route of flight. The airplane was in cruise flight at 9,000 feet when the pilot reported he was 'riding in the tops of the clouds.' The pilot requested and was cleared to climb to 11,000 feet. The airplane leveled off at 9,400 feet; then began another climb, and reached a maximum altitude of 9,700 feet. Shortly thereafter, the airplane entered a steep vertical descent, and radar contact was lost. The airplane came to rest at an elevation of about 3,600 feet, in uneven, wooded terrain. Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any evidence of a mechanical failure of the airframe or engine. Satellite data obtained for the flight indicated the potential for icing in the area of the airplane's last radar return. The airplane was not approved for flight into known icing conditions. An airplane weight and balance calculation revealed that the airplane's weight was about 2,945 pounds, and the center of gravity (CG) was about 142.88 inches, at the time of the accident. According to the pilot operating handbook, the maximum certificated gross weight for the airplane was 2,740 pounds. Additionally, the CG range at the maximum certificated gross weight was about 128 to 138 inches.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's improper weather evaluation, which resulted in a loss of aircraft control. Factors in this accident were icing conditions, and aircraft loading which exceed the airplane's weight and balance limitations.

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