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On October 23, 1997, at 2017 central daylight time (cdt), a Mooney M20K, N305RJ, operated by a private pilot, was destroyed when while maneuvering, the airplane impacted the terrain. A post-crash fire ensued. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. An IFR flight plan was on file. The pilot and two passengers on board the airplane were fatally injured. The flight originated at Farmington, New Mexico, at 1601 mountain daylight time (mdt), and was en route to Emporia, Kansas.
The pilot telephoned the Las Vegas, Nevada, Flight Service Station (FSS) at 0744 pacific daylight time (pdt), and requested a briefing for a flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Farmington, New Mexico, and then continuing on to Emporia, Kansas. The pilot stated that he would be leaving at noon and requested a "general synopsis." The pilot received an outlook briefing.
At 1048 pdt, the pilot called the Reno, Nevada FSS, and requested to file an IFR flight plan and receive a weather briefing. The pilot filed two flight plans and received a weather briefing. The pilot departed Las Vegas, Nevada, at 1158 pdt.
At 1500 mdt, the pilot called Albuquerque, New Mexico FSS by telephone and received an updated weather briefing for an IFR flight from Farmington, New Mexico, to Emporia, Kansas.
At 1554 mdt, the pilot contacted Farmington, New Mexico, Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) requesting "taxi and clearance to Emporia." Farmington ATCT cleared the airplane for taxi. At 1600 mdt, on reaching the run-up area, the Farmington ATCT issued the pilot clearance to Emporia, Kansas, via direct as filed, and to climb and maintain 17,000 feet mean sea level (msl). The pilot read back the clearance and reported ready for takeoff. At 1601 mdt, Farmington ATCT cleared the airplane for takeoff without delay. The pilot departed after acknowledging the clearance.
At 1854 cdt, the pilot contacted the Wichita, Kansas FSS, and requested the current weather from Dodge City, Kansas, to Emporia. The Enroute Flight Advisory Specialist at Wichita FSS told the pilot "the Emporia sequence is a special. At forty-one past the hour, they [Emporia] were showing 800 overcast, visibility 10 miles." The pilot confirmed the ceiling and visibility with the Flight Advisory Specialist and then asked if Emporia was reporting any rain. The response was "negative."
At 1919:11 cdt, the pilot checked in with Kansas City Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) Sector 66, and reported that he was level at 11,000 feet msl.
At 1941:07 cdt, Kansas City ARTCC directed the pilot to descend to 5,000 feet msl.
At 1943:57 cdt, Kansas City ARTCC informed the pilot that the weather at Emporia, Kansas was winds at 180 degrees magnetic at 13 knots with gusts to 16 knots; visibility 10 miles; ceiling 600 feet above ground level (agl), and an altimeter setting of 29.68 inches of mercury.
At 1946:29 cdt, Kansas City ARTCC Sector 66 instructed the pilot to contact Kansas City ARTCC on another frequency. The pilot acknowledged by reading back the frequency.
At 1946:42 cdt, the pilot checked in with Kansas City ARTCC Sector 48, and reported that he was "descending down through 6,500 [feet msl]." Sector 48 instructed the pilot to maintain 5,000 feet msl, "I have an aircraft that's going to depart Emporia in about one more minute, and I'll get him outta your way, and I'll have a clearance for what you like, the VOR alfa?" The pilot responded, "VOR alfa."
At 1950:13 cdt, Sector 48 said, "Three zero five romeo juliet, you can go ahead and start executing the approach, maintain 5,000 [feet msl], once I get that other aircraft in radar, I'll have lower for you."
At 1951:01 cdt, Sector 48 cleared the pilot for the VOR alfa approach into Emporia Municipal Airport, "maintain three thousand two hundred [feet msl] 'til established, report established please." The pilot acknowledged.
At 1954:10 cdt, Sector 48 said, "Three zero five romeo juliet, radar contact is lost. You can change to advisory frequency and report cancellation on this frequency. I can talk to you on the ground." The pilot responded, "Five romeo juliet, thanks."
At 2002:25 cdt, the pilot contacted Kansas City ARTCC Sector 48 and reported that he was on the missed approach. Sector 48 asked the pilot if he wanted to execute the missed approach and try again? The pilot responded, "yeah we're executing missed approach and try again." Sector 48 told the pilot that on reaching 3,200 [feet msl] he was cleared for the VOR alfa approach again and to report when he was established on the approach. The pilot responded, "report established, roger."
At 2014:44 cdt, the pilot reported that he was established inbound on the VOR approach into Emporia. Sector 48 said, "Go over to advisory [frequency] and report cancellation on this frequency. If not, come back up on missed approach."
The pilot responded," Okay, we'll go ahead and cancel IFR right now."
Sector 48 said, "Roger, IFR canceled, squawk VFR, and [I'll] talk to you later." The pilot said, "Okay, thanks."
At 2017 cdt, The Lyon County, Kansas Sheriff's Department dispatcher received a report of a fire and explosion in the 1100 block of County Road J.
According to his logbook, the pilot had 676.6 total flight hours, 119.3 hours in the M-20K. As of September 8, 1997, the pilot had accumulated 44.1 hours of actual instrument time.
The pilot completed a biennial flight review on October 31, 1996, and an instrument competency check flight on January 20, 1997.
The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot and his wife, and used for business and pleasure.
The airplane was manufactured in 1981. The airplane was originally registered as N11486. On July 1, 1984, the airplane was purchased and delivered to Canada. The airplane was operated for 14 years under the Canadian registration letters C-GCYM. The airplane was purchased by the pilot on October 1, 1996.
On October 3, 1996, the airplane was delivered to Rocket Engineering Corporation, Spokane, Washington, to be modified under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Supplemental Type Certificates (STC) number SA5691NM and number SA00243SE, installing a Continental TSIO-520-NB engine on the airplane, and increasing the gross weight of the airplane to 3,200 pounds for takeoff. The airplane was registered to the pilot and his wife on November 14, 1997, as N305RJ. The airplane was declared airworthy and returned to service on November 15, 1997. The airplane underwent a 100 hour inspection on January 7, 1997. The FAA issued a standard airworthiness certificate for the airplane on January 9, 1997.
At 1953 cdt, the Emporia Municipal Airport Automated Aviation Routine Weather Reporting Station (METAR) reported winds of 160 degrees magnetic at seven knots, visibility 6 miles with light rain and fog, and ceilings of 600 feet agl broken, and 7,500 feet agl overcast.
A pilot for United Parcel Service (UPS), who had departed the Emporia Municipal Airport at approximately 2000 cdt, described the weather as "marginal, a ceiling of around 700 feet agl," and the visibility as being 6 to 7 miles. The UPS pilot could not recall if there were any rain or fog in the area at the time he departed.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION
The airplane was equipped with a VOR receiver and Distance Measuring Equipment (DME). The pilot also had on board the airplane a hand-held Global Positioning Satellite receiver, which was recovered at the accident site, and found to be in good working order.
Emporia Municipal Airport has a published VOR or GPS-A approach. Circling minimums required for a category "A" aircraft to fly the approach is a ceiling of 500 feet agl and a visibility of 1 mile.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB on scene investigation began on October 24, 1997, at 1237 central daylight time (cdt).
The accident site was located in a cow pasture, 4 miles south of Emporia, Kansas, approximately 1,056 feet east of Lyon County Road J, a north-south running gravel road. Examination of the accident site revealed a series of three ground scars beginning at the top of a shallow hill and proceeding downhill along a 189- degree magnetic heading to a gully, at the base of the hill, where the main airplane wreckage came to rest. The first ground scar was 426 feet north of an east-west running barbed-wire fence, marking the beginning of the main wreckage. The scar was nine feet long and 12 inches wide. Several small pieces of clear plexiglass were found at the beginning of the scar. Small pieces of red glass corresponding to the left wing's position light, and white fiberglass were observed along the length of the scar. The second ground scar began 418 feet from the main wreckage. The scar was 42 feet long and 17 inches at its widest point. Several small pieces of metal were found embedded in the ground near the scar's mid-point. A 6-inch piece of 1/8-inch diameter metal tubing with a blue "b-nut" fitting was found near the south edge of the ground scar. The third ground scar began 372 feet from the main wreckage. It was 30 feet long, 5 feet at its widest point, and 11 inches deep. A 20 foot long, 15 foot wide spray of earth was observed fanning outward from the south end of the ground scar along a 140-degree magnetic heading. Several pieces of metal skin, fiberglass and parts from the oil pan were observed throughout this area. Streaks of oil were observed in the grass, beginning in this area and continuing down the hill along the 189-degree magnetic heading. Three propeller strikes were observed in the south one-third of the ground scar running 40-degrees north of a lateral line. The strikes were approximately 8 to 15 inches in length and spaced approximately 15 inches apart.
The right wing tip was intact and located approximately 280 feet north-northeast of the main wreckage. It had broken off longitudinally along the rivet line.
The inboard three-fourths of the airplane's left wing was located 186 feet north of the main wreckage. It had broken off at the root. The forward leading edge and upper surface of the wing were bent upward 15-degrees and twisted aft approximately 7 feet outboard of the wing root. The left main landing gear was intact and found in the up position in the wheel well. The bottom wing skin was crushed upward and aft. The left wing's main and auxiliary fuel tanks were broken open. The smell of fuel was prevalent. Aileron continuity through the inboard wing section was confirmed.
The outboard 6 feet of the left wing had broken off at wing station 147.5 along the longitudinal rivet line, and rested approximately 8 feet south of the outboard wing section. The outer 16 inches of the forward leading edge of this wing section was bent up and twisted aft. The left wing tip was broken off along the rivet line. The left aileron was bent upward at mid- span. The outboard edge of the aileron was broken open. The aileron push rod was bent and broken at the fracture.
The airplane's left flap was broken off and found resting next to the left wing. The outboard four feet of the flap was bent upward and twisted forward. The airplane's right flap was broken off and found resting approximately 15 feet west of the left inboard wing section. The trailing edge of the right flap was bend down 90-degrees along the lateral line. The outboard four feet of the right flap was bent upward 60-degrees and twisted forward.
The airplane's propeller was resting face down, 30 feet east of the left wing. Two of the three propeller blades showed torsional bending, chordwise scratches and tip curling. Several 1/8-inch deep nicks were observed in leading edges of the blades.
The third propeller blade was broken off chordwise approximately 4 inches from the hub. Bolt holes on the rear side of the hub were elongated.
The remainder of the airplane's third propeller blade was located approximately 60 feet northeast of the left wing. It showed torsional bending, chordwise scratches and several nicks along its leading and trailing edges.
The nose-cone part of the propeller spinner was located near the propeller. It was broken open and crushed inward.
Pieces of the airplane's forward windscreen, interior cabin panels, the rear passenger seat back, the two front seat backs, aeronautical charts, approach plates, pilot's operating handbook, luggage, and other personal effects fell along an area approximately 150 feet long, beginning south of the left outer wing section and running along a 189-degree magnetic heading to the beginning of the airplane's main wreckage.
The airplane's main wreckage was located in a low-lying grassy area at the base of the hill beginning at the east-west running barbed-wire fence and running south for approximately 150 feet. The entire area was burned. The burned area spanned the 150 foot length and was approximately 146 feet wide.
The fuselage, aft of station 88.00, and empennage to include the vertical stabilizer, rudder, left horizontal stabilizer and left elevator were found resting on their left side, amongst the broken barbed-wire fence. The fuselage was bent upward and twisted to the right. The fuselage was broken open on the lower left side along the mid-lateral line beginning at station 164.00 and moving forward. A 6-foot long, 8-inch diameter wooden fence post, and several strands of barbed-wire were found twisted in and amongst the fracture. The top of the aft fuselage and right side of the fuselage were charred and melted. A 24-inch panel which made up the top of the aft cabin between station 53.00 and station 58.00, and also made up the top part of the aft cabin windows, was broken aft and buckled inward. Broken plexiglass was observed along the top window frames. The top of the airplane, beginning at station 53.00, was bent forward, down and twisted to the right. Broken plexiglass from the forward cabin side windows were found in the top window frames. The forward edge and the top of the right front window frame was charred and melted. Push-pull tubes running along the inside-bottom of the aft fuselage to the empennage control surfaces and stabilator trim were necked and broken where the fuselage had broken off from the rest of the airplane.
The left horizontal stabilizer and left elevator were intact. The left elevator counterweight had broken off of the elevator. The vertical stabilizer and rudder were intact. The right side of the vertical stabilizer was charred and partially melted. The right side of the rudder was scorched. The fin, along the top part of the aft fuselage, running into the vertical stabilizer was charred and melted.
The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were bent upward and broken off from the empennage at the surfaces' roots. They were found resting on the ground, next to the vertical stabilizer and rudder. The right elevator was buckled upward along the mid- lateral line. The elevator counterweight was broken off from the outboard edge. The right elevator was bent upward and aft approximately 30 degrees, beginning at the outboard edge where the counterweight had broken off and ran 9 inches inboard from the fracture.
The airplane's right wing and carry-through spars, and remaining cockpit area were located at the center of the burned grassy area at its lowest point. The right wing was oriented on a 020-degree magnetic heading. The inboard forward leading edge of the right wing was buckled outward and broken open along the lateral span. The aft top one-half of the wing skin was charred and melted. The right main and auxiliary fuel tanks were broken open and melted. The outboard 4 feet of the leading edge of the wing section was bent up and aft. The upper skin was charred. The right wing tip was broken off longitudinally at the rivet line. The right aileron remained attached to the outboard wing section.
It was bent upward at mid-span and charred. Push rods to the aileron were intact to the wing root and charred. The right main landing gear was found in the wheel well in the up position. It was heavily charred and partially melted. Two-thirds of the tire was consumed. The bottom of the wing skin was intact, charred and melted. The middle and rear carry-through spars, which also made up the bottom of the rear cabin seat were buckled upward in the center, charred and melted. The rear cabin seat was consumed. Only the charred springs remained resting on top of the spars. The outer skin which made up the bottom of the airplane between the wings was melted. A portion of the tubular frame which gave support to the right aft cabin wall, was attached at the wing root. It was broken and charred.
The remains of the forward cabin floor, instrument panel, engine controls, nose wheel, and firewall were found adjacent to the right wing on its north side. The cabin floor was crushed upward and melted. The remains of the front seat rails were found melted on the floor section. The instrument panel was consumed. All of the flight and engine instruments were broken, charred and melted. All of the panel radio and navigation instrumentation were broken, charred and melted. The lower instrument panel circuit breakers, control knobs and levers were melted and consumed. Engine and propeller controls were charred, melted and consumed. The firewall was broken out from the engine mounts and the forward fuselage. It was bent aft and charred. The remains of the nose gear was charred and consumed.
The engine mount was broken out and found lying next to the right wing on its north side. It had broken into two pieces. One piece was twisted and charred. The lower portion of the mount was bent down and aft. The airplane's turbocharger and part of the engine exhaust manifold was attached to the mount piece. They were charred and melted.
The top of the engine cowling was found resting upside-down in the burned grass, approximately 5 feet west of the right wing. It was broken along the lateral rivet lines on both sides. The inner surface was charred. The outer skin surface was covered with soot and showed blistered white paint.
The airplane's engine rested upright at the southern-most edge of the burned area. It had broken off at the engine mount attach points. The majority of the engine showed minor damage. Most of the engine accessories remained attached and showed little or no damage. The flange was bent aft on one side approximately 30 degrees. The propeller attach bolts remained in the flange. Several of the bolts were broken at the tops. The threads on all of the bolts were stripped. The oil pan on the bottom side was broken off. The front bottom side of the left front cylinder was charred.
The engine and attached accessories, the attitude indicator gyro, and a hand-held global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver were retained for further examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Lyon County, Kansas, Medical Examiner, on October 25, 1997, at Wichita, Kansas. The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot were negative for all tests conducted.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The airplane's engine, accessories and attitude indicator gyro were examined at Emporia, Kansas on October 25, 1997. No anomalies were revealed with the engine. Examination of the airplane's suction pump and surviving vacuum system revealed no anomalies. Examination of the attitude indicator gyro showed rotational scoring marks on the inside of the case.
The hand-held GPS receiver was examined at the NTSB's North Central Regional Office, on October 30, 1997. The receiver was fully functional, and showed ground track information.
Information retrieved from the receiver showed a ground track, beginning southeast of the Emporia VOR, and ending due west and abeam the Emporia Municipal airport.
The map track screen, oriented north-up, showed the airplane ground track coming from the bottom right side of the screen equating to a northwesterly heading toward the Emporia (EMP) VOR symbol. The screen also showed maneuvering tracks south and east of the VOR symbol. The track crossed the VOR and continued northwest toward the Emporia Airport symbol. After crossing the airport symbol, the track proceeded north to northwest from the airport, and then made a wide right turning loop to the south. The track proceeded south to southwest until being masked by the shaded airport identifier symbol [EMP]. The track ended near the bottom middle of the screen, and is marked by an airplane symbol. The airplane symbol was pointed north. See photographs #12 and #13.
The Lyon County Rural Fire Department was notified of a fire and explosion in the 1100 block of County Road J, at 2017 cdt. The Kansas Highway Patrol arrived at the scene at 2044 cdt, and found airplane parts scattered in a north-south pattern, and the surrounding area on fire. Fire units were on the scene at that time. The charred and melted remains of the airplane's right wing and carry-through spars, forward cockpit area, instrument panel, nose wheel, and firewall were located in the burned area at its lowest point. The airplane's engine rested upright at the southern-most edge of the burned area, and showed minor damage. Examination of the airplane's wreckage showed no evidence of fire or fire residue in streaked patterns on the wings or fuselage. There was also no evidence of melted metal particles embedded in the empennage. Severe fire damage to the airplane encompassed all surfaces exposed to the air. Airplane part surfaces resting on the ground received lesser fire damage.
There was one party to the investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Wichita, Kansas.
All wreckage was released and returned to United States Aviation Underwriters, Incorporated, Dallas, Texas.