NTSB Identification: MIA02LA027.
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Accident occurred Thursday, November 22, 2001 in Hilton Head, SC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/02/2004
Aircraft: Mooney M-20-20, registration: N5217B
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

According to information obtained from the FAA, a visual flight rules flight plan had been filed, and the pilot had requested and was receiving VFR flight following. The FAA transcript of communications showed that on November 22, 2001, at 1025, shortly after departing from Wilson Industrial Air Center, Wilson, North Carolina, the pilot had initiated radio communications with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (AFB) Approach Control. As the flight progressed, communications control had been passed from Seymour Johnson Approach Control, to Fayetteville Approach Control, to Myrtle Beach Approach Control, to Charleston Approach Control. At 1223, the pilot was handed off from Charleston Approach Control to Beaufort Approach Control, and at 1224, the pilot had checked in with Beaufort approach controller, saying that he was at 8,800 feet, and climbing. He then requested to climb to 10,500 feet, to remain clear of clouds, and was given clearance to do so. At 1238, the pilot stated that he had been trying to get above the clouds nice Charleston, and that he was presently at 10,500 feet, and asked if there were any reports on the cloud coverage. He also said that at that time the clouds appeared to be at 10,300 feet. At 1248, the pilot was instructed to contact Jacksonville Center on 126.75 mHZ, and he acknowledged the frequency change. At 1249, the pilot made initial contact with the Jacksonville Center Brunswick radar sector controller, reporting that he was at 10,300 feet. The controller responded with the Brunswick altimeter setting, and informed the pilot to remain VFR at all times. The pilot did not respond. Radar data showed that at 1248, the airplane was at an altitude of 10,700 feet, and at 1250, when the airplane was last seen on radar, it had descended to an altitude of 7000 feet, and was in geographic position 32 degrees 06 minutes 58 seconds north latitude, 080 degrees 23 minutes 13 seconds west longitude There were no subsequent radar contacts or voice communications with the flight. According to information obtained from the U.S. Coast Guard, at 1347, the U.S. Coast Guard received initial notification of the downed airplane and diverted a search and rescue asset to initiate a search. On November 23, 2001, about 0758, a U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue asset observed and recovered airplane related debris floating in the Atlantic Ocean, in position 32 degrees, 01.5 minutes north latitude, 080 degrees, 29.4 minutes west longitude. Airplane related debris was also retrieved in the vicinity of Sea Pines, Hilton Head, South Carolina, and the retrieved debris was examined by an FAA licensed aviation mechanic. The examination revealed that the wreckage was consistent with portions of a Mooney M20. According to the mechanic, fragmented sections of the right wing rear spar at the aileron bellcrank exhibited 60 percent damage due to rot, and the left wing's rear spar at the aileron bell crank exhibited 75 percent damage due to rot. The NTSB conducted a meteorological study of weather in the vicinity of the accident site, and the study revealed the presence of clouds with bases of about 3,500 feet, and an overcast layer with tops of about 11,000 to 13,000 feet, The study also revealed the possibility of light to moderate turbulence and light precipitation within clouds. According to information obtained from the FAA, as well as the pilot's insurance company, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating, and had accumulated about 170 total flight hours. The pilot did not hold an instrument rating.

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

The pilot's continued visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a loss of control, an uncontrolled descent, and an impact with the water.

Full narrative available

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