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On November 22, 2001, about 1250, eastern standard time, a Mooney M-20-20, N5217B, registered to and operated by a private individual, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, near Hilton Head, South Carolina, while on a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight from Wilson, North Carolina, to St. Petersburg, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had been filed. The aircraft was destroyed, and the private-rated pilot and one passenger are missing and are presumed to have received fatal injuries. The flight departed from Wilson, North Carolina, the same day, about 1000.
According to information obtained from the FAA, the pilot had requested and was receiving VFR flight following. The FAA transcript of communications showed that at 1025, shortly after departing from Wilson Industrial Air Center, Wilson, North Carolina, the pilot had initiated radio communications contact with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (AFB) Approach Control, and at 1029, the airplane was identified by the radar controller. At 1032, the pilot informed the controller that he was at an altitude of 6,500 feet, enroute to St. Petersburg, Florida, and at 1047, communications control was passed from Seymour Johnson Approach Control, to Fayetteville Approach Control. At 1110, communications control was passed from Fayetteville Approach Control, to Myrtle Beach Approach Control, and at 1148, the pilot was instructed to contact Charleston Approach Control. At 1216, the pilot requested a higher altitude, and was cleared to climb, with the Charleston Approach controller stating" remain clear of clouds and maintain VFR." At 1223, the pilot was handed off to Beaufort Approach Control, and at 1224, he 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 by the radar controller to contact Jacksonville Center on 126.75MHZ, and he acknowledged the frequency change. At 1249, the pilot made initial contact with the Jacksonville Center Brunswick radar sector controller and reported that he was at 10,300 feet, and the controller responded with the Brunswick altimeter setting, and informed the pilot to remain VFR at all times, but the pilot of N5217B did not respond. The transcript of communications showed that from 1251, several attempts were made by FAA air traffic personnel to establish communications contact and locate N5217B, and all results were negative.
Radar data showed that at 1248, N5217B was at an altitude of 10,700 feet, and at 1250, when N5712B 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 on November 23, 2001, at 1347, the U.S. Coast Guard received initial notification of the downed airplane and diverted a Coast Guard asset to perform a search. On November 23, 2001, about 0758, a U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue unit observed aircraft related debris in position 32 degrees, 01.5 minutes north latitude, 080 degrees, 29.4 minutes west longitude, while conducting a search of the area for the missing aircraft.
FAA records indicate that the pilot-in-command held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single land rating, issued on May 9, 1998. FAA records also showed that the pilot's last medical certificate was a third class certificate, issued on January 30, 2001, with no stated limitations. The pilot did not possess an instrument rating. The pilot's logbook was not available to the NTSB, but on his application for a medical certificate, the pilot reported having a total of 150 total flight hours, with about 50 flight hours having been flown in the last 6 months.
According to information obtained from the FAA, N5217B was a 1956 model M-20-20 Mooney airplane, serial number 1080 registered to the pilot/owner. The NTSB did not obtain any of the accident airplane's maintenance records. An FAA licensed airframe and powerplant mechanic stated that he performed an annual inspection on N5217B on June 1, 2001, in exchange for a paint job on one of the his cars, because the pilot owner of the accident airplane owned an automotive paint shop. The mechanic said that he did not have any invoice or other record of the annual that he had performed, but remembers that at the time of the annual inspection both the airframe and engine both had a total time of 1,903 hours.
At 0811, on the day of the accident, the pilot of N5217B had telephoned Raleigh Automated Flight Service Station, and had requested a pilot weather briefing from Rocky Mount, North Carolina to St. Petersburg, Florida. About the time of the accident, the Savannah (SAV) 1253 surface weather observation was winds variable at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 21 degrees C, dewpoint temperature 11 degrees C, altimeter 30.12 inHg.
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.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
On November 23, 2001, about 0758, a U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue unit observed what appeared to be aircraft related debris floating in the Atlantic Ocean in position 32 degrees, 01.5 minutes north latitude, 080 degrees, 29.4 minutes west longitude.
The observed airplane related debris was retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean by the Coast Guard, and in addition additional debris was recovered in the vicinity of Sea Pines, Hilton Head, South Carolina. All airplane related 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.