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On July 26, 2000, about 1905 Eastern Daylight Time, a Mooney M20E, N5727Q, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Lunenburg, Massachusetts. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated from the Wood County Airport (PKB), Parkersburg, West Virginia, about 1435.
According to the pilot's brother, the pilot intended to fly from Texas to Maine, with a stop in Massachusetts.
The pilot contacted the Elkins Flight Service Station (FSS), Elkins, West Virginia, at 1404. According to a voice recording of the pilot's briefing, the pilot requested weather information for a flight that would be conducted between PKB and Lawrence, Massachusetts, and repeatedly stated to the FSS briefer that he might have to change his planned route to avoid bad weather. The briefer cautioned the pilot about weather that was in the Albany (ALB), New York area, and the pilot replied that he might go up to Glen Falls, New York and then on to Concord, New Hampshire. The pilot contacted the FSS a second time at 1422, to request weather information between PKB and Concord, New Hampshire. The pilot was advised that the forecasted cloud layer "tops," in the northwestern and southwestern portions of Pennsylvania, were 6,000 feet. The "tops" forecasted for eastern Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, were 25,000 feet, and the "tops" for New Hampshire and Vermont were 8,000 feet. After receiving the weather information, the pilot stated to the briefer that, "I might have to shoot for ALB, and if I have problems there, I can vector to the north of ALB, I guess, and escape some of that stuff." The pilot did not file either a visual flight rules flight plan or an instrument flight rules flight plan during either contact with the FSS.
Witnesses who lived near the accident site reported they had heard and seen an airplane fly overhead about the time of the accident. They noted that the airplane's engine was "sputtering" and black smoke was coming from it.
The accident occurred during the hours of twilight, approximately 42 degrees, 36 minutes north latitude, and 71 degrees, 45 minutes west longitude, at an elevation of 555 feet mean sea level.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating. The pilot did not hold an instrument rating.
The pilot's most recent application for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was issued on July 17, 1998, with limitations to wear corrective lenses.
Review of the pilot's logbook revealed that the last recorded entry was dated December 7, 1996. The pilot's total estimated flight experience was about 884 hours, all of which were accumulated in the accident airplane. The pilot had logged 2.3 hours of "simulated" instrument flight experience, 1 hour of which had been logged on January 10, 1990. The additional 1.3 hours of "simulated" instrument flight experience was not recorded in the logbook. Additionally, the pilot's most recent documented biennial flight review was conducted in September 1990.
The airplanes maintenance logbooks were not recovered after the accident.
The weather recorded at the Fitchburg Municipal Airport (FIT), Fitchburg, Massachusetts, located about 3.6 miles southwest of the accident site, at 1852 was; variable winds at 3 knots, 4 statute miles of visibility, light rain and mist; overcast clouds at 500 feet. At 1916 the recorded weather was; winds from 100 degrees at 7 knots; 9 statute miles of visibility; scattered clouds at 500 feet and 900 feet; overcast clouds at 2,000 feet.
The wreckage was examined at the accident site on July 27, 2000. The airplane came to rest in an open field, among fallen trees, on a magnetic bearing of about 280 degrees. Ground scars, which contained paint chips similar in color to what was painted on the accident airplane, were observed starting from about 500 feet prior to the main wreckage. Tree damage was observed about 20 feet to the right of the initial ground scar, and at a height of about 28 feet above the ground. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. The main fuselage was lying on the ground upright and nose low. The right wing was pointing upward at a 45-degree angle and was still attached. The left wing was separated from the fuselage at the wing root and was located in several pieces along the debris path. The left wing fuel tank was compromised and did not contain any fuel. The right wing fuel tank was intact and it also did not contain fuel. No fuel stains or odors were observed at the accident site.
The engine was examined at a recovery facility the same day of the wreckage examination. The crankshaft was rotated freely through the accessory drive section. Thumb compression and valve train continuity was attained to all cylinders. The top and bottom spark plugs, with the exception of the top number two cylinder spark plug, were removed; their electrodes were intact and light gray in color. The right magneto was removed from the engine, and when rotated by hand, produced spark on all four towers. The left magneto was not recovered. The fuel line connected to the fuel divider manifold and the fuel servo was removed and contained no fuel. The fuel flow divider was examined and about 1 tablespoon of liquid similar in color and odor to aviation 100 low lead fuel was observed. The fuel servo filter screen was damaged. Continuity of all fuel lines to their respective tanks was established by blowing air through the lines. The electric and engine driven fuel pumps were destroyed. The oil sump screen was removed from the engine and appeared absent of debris. The oil filter was destroyed.
The propeller remained attached to the engine. It exhibited rearward bending and chord-wise scarring to all three blades.
A transponder was found installed in the instrument panel. The power selection knob was observed in the "OFF" position and the "squawk" code was selected to 1200.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot, July 27, 2000, by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Worchester, Massachusetts.
Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
An instrument flight rules (IFR) chart, identified as IFR Enroute Low Altitude chart L-25, was found at the accident site. A route, highlighted with an orange marker, was plotted on the chart from the East Texas VOR to the Lawrence Municipal Airport (LWM). The route transited between VOR's and victor airways. A "trip" sheet, was also found in the wreckage, and referenced IFR Enroute Low Altitude charts, VOR's, and headings, that corresponded to the route depicted on the chart found in the wreckage. There were also distances recorded on the "trip" sheet, starting from the Lynchburg Regional Airport, Lynchburg, Virginia, and ending with LWM VOR. The distances totaled 520 miles. No instrument approach plates were located in the wreckage.
Review of Bradley International Airport (BDL), Windsor Locks, Connecticut, radar data, provided by the FAA, revealed a "primary target" traveling on an eastbound course at an unknown altitude. The target appeared on the radar plot in the vicinity of the ALB VOR, and proceeded east on a course of about 100 degrees. The last target recorded by the radar facility was at 1843:01, about 16 miles west of FIT. When a line was plotted from the last known position of the target, along it's course, the line intersected the FIT airport.
The ALB VOR was located near the approximate center of the ALB airport area. The ALB controlled airspace extended from the surface to 4,300 feet. ALB Air Traffic Controllers received no radio transmissions from the accident airplane, and no penetrations of the airspace by unidentified aircraft were reported.
According to an FAA inspector, the "primary target" shown on the radar plot would have been at a minimum altitude of 2,500-3,000 feet to be detected by the BDL radar facility.
Refueling and Airplane Performance Data
According to line service personnel at PKB, the airplane was "topped off" with 28.8 gallons of "100 low lead" aviation fuel about 1400, on July 26, 2000.
Review of the 1965 Mooney M20E Owners Manual performance section, the usable fuel capacity was 52 gallons. The manual also stated, at a power setting of 2,500 rpm, and a manifold pressure of 25 inches of mercury, the maximum endurance of the airplane at an altitude of 5,000 feet would have been 4 hours and 2 minutes. The maximum endurance of the airplane, with a power setting of 2,500 rpm, and a manifold pressure of 22 inches of mercury, at an altitude of 7,500 feet, would have been 4 hours and 26 minutes. The accident flight lasted approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes.
The airplane wreckage was released, on July 27, 2000, to Colson's Auto Parts Inc., Lunenburg, Massachusetts.