NTSB Identification: ERA12FA566
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, September 17, 2012 in Crane Hill, AL
Aircraft: MOONEY M20M, registration: N1085A
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.

On September 17, 2012, about 1400 central daylight time, a Mooney M20M, N1085A, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain in Crane Hill, Alabama. The private pilot and the passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and the airplane was operating on an instrument flight rules flight plan from Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (DTS), Destin, Florida, to Sumner County Regional Airport (M33), Gallatin, Tennessee. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to preliminary air traffic control information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), at 1317, while airplane was at 13,000 feet, the pilot requested information about conditions at 15,000 feet. The center controller responded that there was no icing, "but a lot of course deviations with precipitation ahead." The pilot requested and was granted a climb to 15,000 feet.

At 1325, the pilot was told to contact the center's next sector controller, and upon doing so, that controller advised him of moderate to extreme precipitation for about the next 90 miles along the route of flight. The pilot subsequently stated that he was looking at ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast), and needed to deviate for several miles before turning back to the north. The controller approved 10 degrees' right and left deviation, and direct to M33 when able.

At 1334, the controller advised the pilot of moderate to extreme precipitation at his 12 to 1 o'clock position about 12 miles ahead. The pilot requested another 10 degrees' deviation to the left, and the controller approved deviations left and right, and direct to M33 when able.

At 1336, the pilot advised the controller that he was turning the airplane to 320 degrees, which the controller acknowledged.

At 1354, the controller issued the pilot a radio frequency change, to which, the pilot responded, "Unable, we're battling some pretty bad" (end of transmission.)

At 1359:01, the controller called the pilot, who responded with, "MAYDAY (unintelligible) MAY eight five alpha MAYDAY MAYDAY." There were no further transmissions from the airplane.

A witness stated that, at the time of the accident, it was raining "like crazy," but with no thunder. He heard an engine noise; it "sounded like he had power, then [I] heard a 'thud.'" When the witness arrived at the accident site, the airplane's cabin was on fire.

The airplane first impacted rolling pastureland in the vicinity of 33 degrees, 58.58 minutes north latitude, 087 degrees, 07.04 west longitude, at an elevation of about 560 feet.

A ground imprint of the airplane's tail commenced about 5 feet beyond an undamaged 5-foot fence post. The ground imprint was consistent with the airplane having impacted the ground flat and upright, with the landing gear up. Airplane fragments were located along an approximately 225-foot debris path, heading about 010 degrees magnetic, with the cabin area and still-attached engine located near the end of the debris path. Although vegetation was pushed over in many spots along the debris path, there was a lack of ground scaring between the first ground impact and where the cabin came to rest.

Both wings and the tail section were separated from the airplane and were not burned, and there were no soot streaks on any fuselage components to indicate an in-flight fire. The aft portion of the main fuselage behind the passenger seats was unburned and crushed downward. The roof and sidewalls of the cabin area were missing, with the rest of the cabin charred forward of the supplemental oxygen bottle that was located just behind the aft cabin bulkhead. The oxygen bottle, mounted horizontally with the cap pointed forward, was also charred in the cap area.

All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident scene; however, due to the extensive fracturing of the airplane and subsequent fire, flight control continuity could not be confirmed.

One propeller blade was found separated from the hub at the initial impact point, and the hub, with the two remaining propeller blades, was found separated from the engine about 75 feet beyond the first blade. One propeller blade exhibited extensive curling and bending, the other two blades exhibited torsional bending, and all blades had leading edge burnishing and chordwise scratching.

The engine could not be examined due to extensive fire and impact damage; however, the starter ring exhibited rotational fracturing.

No airplane recording devices could be found in the wreckage.

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