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On January 9, 2000, at about 1900 eastern standard time, a Mooney M20M, N2135X, registered to Silverscape Designs Inc., operating as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed while maneuvering on a VOR/DME approach to East Cooper Airport (8S5), Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and an IFR flight plan was filed. The airplane was destroyed. The private pilot was fatally injured. The flight originated from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, about 44 minutes before the accident.
Review of transcripts of communication between Charleston approach and N2135X revealed N2135X contacted Charleston approach at 23:29:37 (18:29:37), at 4,000 feet. At 23:29:42, Charleston approach provided N2135X with the current altimeter and informed him that he did not have any landing weather information at East Cooper Airport: In addition, he asked N2135Z what type of an approach was he requesting. N2135X stated, "Ahh if its okay with you I'll fly direct to the airport and if I get a visual I'll take it otherwise I'll do the VOR ahh DME alpha." N2135X was instructed to expect lower in 5 miles. At 23:43:12, N2135X was instructed to descend to 1,600, and was informed that the airport was 3 miles at his 12 o'clock position. N2135X stated, "down to one thousand six hundred ahh looking for the airport." Charleston approach informed N2135X at 23:44:53, that he was over the airport. N2135X replied, "okay I'll do the VOR alpha." N2135X was provided a heading change, instructed to climb to 2,500 feet, and informed that he was going to vector him to the VOR final approach course which was acknowledged by the pilot. At 23:51:31, N2135X was instructed to turn right heading 060, join the VOR final approach course and to track inbound. At 23:52:15, Charleston approach stated, "November two one three five x ray is five miles from the Charleston vortac maintain one thousand six hundred until established on the final approach course Charles VOR DME runway correction VOR DME in the East Cooper Airport," which was acknowledged by the pilot. At 23:53:35, Charleston approach informed N2135X to advise cancellation on this frequency or on the ground with Anderson Flight Service, and change to advisory frequency was approved. N2135X stated at 23:53:44, "well advise thank you." There were no other known recorded transmissions from N2135X. At 00:00:49, Charleston approach attempted radio contact with N2135X with negative results.
Two witnesses (airport employee and a friend of the deceased pilot) were at the East Cooper Airport. They stated the airplane approached the airport flying eastbound. The weather was very foggy, and they were unable to see the airplane as it flew over the airport towards Darrell Creek residential area located to the north east. A short time later, Charleston approach called the airport and wanted to know if the Mooney airplane had landed. In addition, a resident from Darrel Creek called the airport and stated he thought an airplane had crashed. The employee called Charleston County Sheriff's Department and notified them of the phone calls.
Two other witnesses located in the Darrel Creek residential area stated they were sitting on their back porch when they observed an airplane approaching their location. Both witnesses stated the airplane came out of the fog in a descending attitude. One witness stated the airplane was descending in about a 30-degree nose-down attitude. Both witnesses stated the landing light and wing tip lights were on. The airplane was observed to pull up (estimated at about a 40-degree nose-up attitude) and started a steep left turn with slow airspeed before going back into the cloud bank. The airplane was observed to come back out of the cloud bank in a descending 70-degree left bank. An increase in engine power was heard, the airplane disappeared from view, and was heard to impact with the water and marsh.
The chief pilot for the Charleston County Sheriff's Department stated he was notified of a possible airplane accident at about 1902. He called the Anderson Automated Flight Service Station and was informed that the Charleston weather was 300 overcast, 4 miles visibility with mist. He made sure the appropriate agencies were made aware of the accident and placed one of his pilots on call for a possible launch once the weather improved. He drove to the command post to assist and remained there until the crash site was located.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate issued on February 12, 1991, for airplane single engine land, instrument airplane. The pilot held a third class medical certificate issued on July 2, 1998, with no medical limitations. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed he had recorded as logged 537 total flight hours. He had accumulated 316 hours in the Mooney M20M, of which 270 hours were as the pilot-in-command. The pilot's last recorded flight was on January 6, 2000. His last recorded instrument flight was on November 14, 1999, and his last recorded night flight was on November 22, 1999. He completed an instrument competency check and a high performance check on January 21, 1998. The last recorded biennial flight review was conducted on May 15, 1997, in a Piper PA-28-181.
Review of maintenance records revealed the last recorded annual inspection was conducted on September 27, 1999, at Hobbs time 451.4, and the aircraft total time was 451.4. The last recorded maintenance on N2135X before the accident was conducted on December 27, 1999, at Hobbs time 472. The altimeter system, altitude reporting equipment, and transponder were inspected on September 23, 1999. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed the airplane was flown on January 6, 2000 for .9 hours. The next flight was conducted on the day of the accident. The airplane was flown about 2 hours 55 minutes from Massachusetts to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The nearest weather facility at the time of the accident was Charleston Air Force Base/ International Airport, Charleston, South Carolina. The 1908 surface weather observation was: 300 broken, visibility 5 miles, temperature 60 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point temperature 60 degrees Fahrenheit, wind from 190 degrees at 10 knots, and altimeter 30.02 inHg. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the crash site revealed the airplane collided with the marsh and water in a nose-down, left wing low attitude on a heading of 160 degrees magnetic. The engine assembly and accessories were buried about 2 to 4 feet below the water line. The cockpit and passenger area were compressed aft from station -.500 rearward to station 103. The left wing was displaced aft. The left fuel tank was ruptured. The leading edge of the left wing sustained compression damage extending from the wing root outboard to the wing tip. The left flap assembly separated from the wing. The left wing tip was bent upward at wing station 133.00. The right wing was accelerated forward. The right main fuel tank was ruptured. The leading edge of the right wing sustained compression damage extending from the wing root outboard to the wing tip. The right wing tip was resting on a marshy berm and bent downward at station 147.5. The right flap assembly had separated from the wing. The flaps were in the up position. The landing gear was in the up position. The aft fuselage sustained accordion crushing along the left side of the fuselage extending aft to the empennage assembly. The empennage assembly was bent forward about 60-degrees resting on the top of the fuselage at station 194.5.
Examination of the airframe, and flight control assembly revealed no evidence of a precrash mechanical failure or malfunction. All components necessary for flight were present at the crash site. Continuity of the flight control system was confirmed for pitch, roll, and yaw.
Examination of the engine assembly and accessories revealed no evidence of a precrash mechanical failure or malfunction. The propeller spinner had evidence of rotation. All three propeller blades were bent aft with evidence of torsional twisting and "s" bending.
Examination of the primary airborne vacuum pump revealed the shaft would freely turn when rotated by hand. The vanes and rotor were not damaged. The secondary airborne vacuum pump was separated from the engine. The internal vanes were intact, the rotor was fractured, and no scoring was noted within the pump housing.
The turn coordinator, directional gyro, and vertical speed indicator were destroyed.
Examination of the flight command indicator revealed no evidence of rotational scarring on the gyro, rotor, or gyro housing.
Examination of the encoding altimeter revealed no evidence of a precrash mechanical failure or malfunction. A factory seal (blue line) was present The sector pivots were broken and the balance assembly separated from the sector assembly. The encoder was broken in half. Tension was present on the hair spring to the sector and sector pointer. The diaphragm was separated from the base and was not damaged. No play was present on the top of the plate bridge, and no scarring was present on the top plate gears.
A functional manometer test of the airspeed indicator could not be conducted due to submersion in water at the crash site. A factory seal was (blue line) was present. Disassembly of the airspeed indicator revealed the airspeed pointer was broken. The sector pivots were not broken, and the diaphragm was not damaged. No tension was present on the hairspring and the handstaff was not damaged.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted by Dr. Melissa A. Sims, Forensic Pathology Fellow, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, on January 10, 2000. The cause of death was blunt force trauma. Postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot was performed by the Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. These studies were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol. The studies were positive for 0.002 (ug/ml,ug/g) tetrahydrocannabinol (main active substance in marihuana) and tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (main inactive metabolite of tetrahydrocannabinol) present in the blood. Tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid 0.037 (ug/ml,ug/g), (main inactive metabolite of tetrahydrocannabinol) was detected in the urine.
TEST AND RESEARCH
A flight check of VOR/DME circling approach at Mount Pleasant/East Cooper Airport, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina was requested and conducted by the FAA Atlanta Flight Inspection Field Office on January 11, 2000, with no deficiencies noted. The Minimum Safe Altitude Warning (MSAW) Approach Path Monitor (APM) was evaluated for VDME/RNAV/GPS RWY 17 and VOR/DME or GPS-A East Cooper/Mount Pleasant South Carolina. All MSAW/APM alarms were reported to operate satisfactorily by Charleston Approach Control personnel. (For additional information see FAA Flight Inspection Reports.)
The airplane wreckage was released to Mr. James W. Oliver, Atlanta Air Salvage, Griffin, Georgia, on January 14, 2000. The pilot logbook and aircraft logbooks were released to Miss Gillian B. Schillar, attorney administrator of the estate of the deceased pilot on February, 2000. The components retained for further testing were released to Mr. Christopher C. Cartwright, Atlanta Air Salvage on February 8, 2000.