On June 7, 2002, about 1812 Pacific daylight time, a Mooney M20E, N1285X, collided with trees and hilly terrain during a forced landing following a loss of power about 6 miles east of Placerville, California. The commercial certificated pilot was the sole occupant in the airplane, which he owned and operated. The pilot was seriously injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The personal flight was being operated under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The pilot's family reported that, during the accident flight, the pilot was returning home to the Placerville airport following his departure from Bridgeport, California, at an undetermined time.

In a report from the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department, Placerville, California, a deputy indicated that a witness had observed the accident airplane glide in very quietly with its propeller barely turning "as if only from the wind." The witness reported that the airplane "skipped off the ground once, as if trying to land, and then lifted back into the air again." Thereafter, the airplane came back down and crashed into a grove of trees.


The accident site is about 6 miles east of the Placerville Airport, and is near 38 degrees 42 minutes north latitude by 120 degrees 39 minutes west longitude. The accident site is near a road named Starkes Grade, which is adjacent to an open field. The accident airplane was found in the field imbedded in a grove of oak trees.


A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector verbally reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that there was no evidence of fuel spillage on the ground around the crashed airplane. Also, he removed the airplane's fuel lines at the engine's firewall, fuel pump, and servo. The FAA inspector reported observing between 10 and 15 drops (cumulative) of fuel in these lines.

The airplane was recovered from the accident site. Under the direction of the Safety Board investigator, the airplane's engine was examined by the designated Lycoming engine participant. The participant noted that the propeller blades appeared undamaged. The tip area of each blade exhibited a localized chordwise burnished appearance. The fuel pump, screens, magnetos, spark plugs, ignition harness, lubricating system, and other components were examined. The engine participant stated that, during the examination, no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions had been observed.

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