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On February 3, 2007, at 1838 Pacific standard time, a Mooney M20J, N201RV, impacted mountainous terrain in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park near Ranchita, California. The owner/pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was killed; the airplane was substantially damaged. The cross-country personal flight departed Montgomery Field Airport (MYF), San Diego, California, about 1815, with a planned destination of Borrego Springs, California (L08). Visual night meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
The wife of the pilot reported that her husband had departed MYF to fly to their vacation home in Borrego Springs. Typically, he would call her before he departed from MYF. She would then drive to the airport (L08) and pick him up. On the night of the accident, while she waited past his anticipated arrival time, she watched the moon rise. Up until that point, the sky had been very dark. At 1930, she contacted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and filed a concerned alert notice (ALNOT).
The FAA issued an ALNOT at 2130. The Civil Air Patrol and San Diego County Sheriff's Department began a search, and located the wreckage about 0100 on February 4, 2007.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) reviewed recorded radar data, and noted a secondary 1200 (VFR) beacon code at a mode C reported altitude of 300 feet mean sea level (msl) departing from MYF at 1815:52. The ensuing 1200 beacon code radar target return matched the projected flight path of the accident airplane.
Recorded radar data from Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (SCT) indicated that after the target took off, it climbed on a northeasterly course until obtaining a mode C reported altitude of 7,500 feet msl. The target then began a descent continuing in a northeasterly direction. The last radar return was at 1837:55, at a mode C reported altitude of 4,100 feet msl. The last radar return was about 1,300 feet laterally from the first identified point of contact (FIPC).
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the 62-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane.
The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on December 20, 2006, with the limitations that the pilot must wear corrective lenses.
An examination of the pilot's logbook indicated an estimated total flight time of 2,729 hours. He logged 8 hours in the last 30 days. He completed a biennial flight review on December 2, 2006.
The airplane was a Mooney M20J, serial number 24-0256. A review of the airplane's logbooks revealed that the airplane had a total airframe time of 2,994.5 hours at the last annual inspection. The logbooks contained an entry for an annual inspection dated March 1, 2006.
The engine was a Textron Lycoming IO-360-A386D, serial number L-17652-51AC. The time since major overhaul was 1,096.4 hours.
Fueling records at MYF established that the airplane was last fueled to full capacity on February 3, 2007, with the addition of 8.7 gallons of 100LL-octane aviation fuel. Examination of the maintenance and flight department records revealed no unresolved maintenance discrepancies against the airplane prior to departure.
The closest official weather observation station was Thermal/Palm Springs, California (TRM), which was located 24 nautical miles (nm) north of the accident site. The elevation of the weather observation station was -115 feet msl. An aviation routine weather report (METAR) for TRM was issued at 1852. It reported: winds from 330 degrees at 3 knots; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 49 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 33 degrees Fahrenheit; and altimeter 30.23 inHg.
Records from the U.S. Naval Observatory, Astronomical Application Department, reported that the moonrise for the accident site occurred at 1858.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located at the top of Pinyon Mountain, which is essentially a flat plateau covered with large rocks, boulders and vegetation consisting of cactus, pine trees and sparse long grasses.
The Safety Board IIC examined the wreckage on scene. The FIPC were black rubber marks on numerous rocks about 180 feet from the main wreckage at a GPS estimated elevation of 4,294 feet msl. A large ground scar followed with a debris path leading to the main wreckage. The airplane came to rest at a GPS estimated elevation of 4,292 feet msl.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The San Diego County Coroner completed an autopsy on February 5, 2006. The Coroner listed the cause of death as a result of "Multisystem Blunt Force Injuries." The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot.
Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and tested drugs.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Investigators examined the wreckage at Aircraft Recovery Service, Littlerock, California, on May 10, 2006.
The two bladed constant speed propeller was displaced from the crankshaft flange due to the fragmentation of the propeller hub. The fracture surfaces exhibited signatures consistent with overload due to the absorption of rotational energy. The portion of propeller hub that remained on the crankshaft flange was secure at the mechanical attachments. The propeller blades displayed leading edge gouging, torsional twisting, chordwise striations across the cambered surface and trailing edge "S" bending. The signatures were consistent with the absorption of rotational forces applied at the crankshaft at the time of impact.
Investigators examined the engine and found no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions.