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On February 27, 2008, at 2207 Pacific standard time, a Mooney M20C, N591BB, crashed during takeoff from Riverside Municipal Airport (RAL), Riverside, California. The co-owner/pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The private pilot and two passengers were killed; the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and the post crash fire. The local personal flight was departing at the time, with a planned destination of Corona Municipal Airport (AJO), Corona, California. Visual night meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
Interviews with family and friends of the pilot and passengers indicated that the flight departed Corona for a local personal flight. The accident airplane landed at Riverside Airport about 2000. The pilot and passengers intended to eat at the airport restaurant, but the restaurant was closed. The pilot contacted his fiance, who drove to the airport to pick them up for dinner in the local area.
After dinner they drove back to the airport, and the pilot and passengers boarded the airplane for the return flight to Corona. The fiance had left the airport prior to the airplane taking off and did not witness the accident.
During takeoff a ground witness reported that once airborne the airplane was "porpoising" up and down as it flew towards him. As the airplane neared the end of the runway, he saw it make a steep climbing left turn. The witness stated that the airplane rolled inverted and descended towards the ground in a nose down attitude. The airplane then impacted a palm tree and a vehicle that was parked on a residential street located just south of the airport. After the airplane impacted the ground, the witness saw an explosion and a fire ball.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the 35-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating.
The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on October 14, 2007. It had no limitations or waivers.
Investigators were able to examine the pilot's partially damaged logbook. The pilot had an estimated total flight time of about 230 hours, with an estimated 20 hours in the accident make and model. He completed a biennial flight review in February 2007.
The airplane was a Mooney M20C, serial number 2385. A review of the airplane's logbooks revealed an annual inspection dated February 8, 2008, which reported a total airframe time of 3,811 hours. The tachometer read 489 hours at the last inspection. The inspection was not completed until February 26, 2008, when the post maintenance flight was completed.
A Lycoming O-360-A1D, serial number L-5431-36, had been installed on the airplane. Total time recorded on the engine at the last annual inspection was 3,844 hours, and time since major overhaul was 293 hours.
The airplane was last fueled to maximum capacity by one of the co-owners about 4 days prior to the accident flight. After the airplane had been refueled, the co-owner reported that the airplane had flown a total of 1.5 hours by the accident pilot prior to the accident.
Examination of the maintenance records revealed no unresolved maintenance discrepancies against the airplane prior to departure.
The official weather reporting observation station was located at the Riverside Airport (RAL), .5 nautical miles (nm) north of the accident site. The elevation of the weather observation station was 819 feet mean sea level (msl). An aviation routine weather report (METAR) for RAL was issued at 2153. It stated: winds calm; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 12 degrees Celsius; dew point 05 degrees Celsius; altimeter 29.92 inches of Mercury.
The pilot was not in communication with air traffic control (ATC) at RAL as the tower was closed.
A Riverside police helicopter pilot reported hearing the pilot of a Mooney report on the tower frequency (121.0) that he was taking off from Riverside airport via runway 16 (southbound). A few minutes later they were dispatched to an airplane accident south of the airport.
The Airport/Facility Directory, Southwest U. S., indicated that RAL runway 16 was 2,850 feet long and 50 feet wide. The runway surface was asphalt.
Riverside airport's main runway, 27/9, was closed per a Notice to Airman (Notam) due to inoperative runway lights. The Notam was issued on February 27, 2008, and canceled on February 28, 2008.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Investigators examined the wreckage at the accident scene. The airplane had come to rest inverted at the base of a palm tree on the north side curb line of a residential street oriented along a 090-degree magnetic heading. The airplane was mostly consumed by a post impact fire, with the right wing coming to rest on top of an automobile.
The impact damage to the palm tree and the street was consistent with the witness statements of the near vertical flight path of the airplane prior to impact.
All of the airplane's primary structure and flight controls were accounted for at the accident site. Primary flight control system continuity was established.
The engine exhibited no visible evidence of catastrophic mechanical malfunction. The fuel selector valve was selected on the left tank. Flaps and gear appeared to be retracted. The tail trim was measured and was set for takeoff.
The airplane was recovered and retained for further examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Riverside County Coroner completed an autopsy. The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot.
Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for carbon monoxide, volatiles, and tested drugs.
The report contained the following findings for Cyanide: 1.56 (ug/ml) detected in blood.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Investigators examined the airframe and engine with no mechanical anomalies identified that would have precluded normal operation.
The accident pilot, a new owner to the airplane partnership, had recently completed the insurance required make and model training. The accident flight was the first flight since the annual had been completed, as well as, the first flight for the accident pilot since attaining the insurance required training.
In a written statement by the co-owner, which related that the accident pilot had discussed the weight and balance of his intended flight, and that with full fuel and his passengers he was still within limits of the airplane.
No records were recovered showing that the pilot had ever used runway 16 at RAL previously.