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On January 29, 2011, at an undetermined time, a Mooney M20J, N50BJ, impacted terrain near Furnace Creek, California. The owner/pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage by impact forces. The cross-country personal flight departed Furnace Creek between 1430 and 1515 Pacific standard time (PST) with a planned destination of Santa Monica, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
A witness reported that the accident airplane departed from Furnace Creek Airport (L06) between 1430 and 1515 on January 29, 2011, and departed to the south. The witness observed the airplane’s ground operations and the takeoff, which appeared normal to him.
The airplane wreckage was not discovered until January 31, 2011, around 0830 PST by National Park personnel. The wreckage was located 7 miles south of the departure airport.
The 61-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate for single-engine land operations and an instrument rating. No personal flight records were located for the pilot. The aeronautical experience listed in this report was obtained from a review of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records on file in the Airman and Medical Records Center located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The pilot reported on his medical application that he had a total flight time of 2,000 hours with 20 hours logged in the last 6 months.
The airplane was a Mooney M20J, serial number 24-0657. No aircraft or engine logbooks could be located. The mechanic A&P/IA that performed the last annual inspection reported that the airplane had a total airframe time of 1,703 hours at the time of the inspection, which was completed on August 11, 2010.
The engine was a Lycoming IO-360-A3B6D, serial number L-19390-51A. Total time recorded on the engine at the last annual inspection was 1,703.0 hours, and time since major overhaul was estimated to be 150.0 hours. The tachometer read 1,712.8 hours at the accident scene.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located on a dry salt lake bed. The surface of the ground was deep jagged salt deposits, with deep crevasses between 6 to 18 inches deep.
A ground surface scar was the first identified point of contact (FIPC) with the remains of the left wing tip navigation light. The debris path was 160 feet in length, along a magnetic heading of 185 degrees. The orientation of the fuselage was 300 degrees.
The airplane appeared to have collided with level terrain in a slightly left bank, nose low attitude. The flaps and landing gear were retracted. The throttle, propeller, and mixture controls were full forward.
The propeller blades exhibited damage signatures consistent with the absorption of rotational forces being applied at the time of impact with terrain. Furthermore, significant rotational blue paint signatures were observed on the spinner bulkhead.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Inyo County Coroner completed an autopsy on February 4, 2011. The cause of death was listed as multiple traumatic injuries.
The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot.
Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles.
The report contained the following findings for tested drugs: Rosuvastatin was detected in liver and Urine.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Investigators examined the wreckage at Aircraft Recovery Service, Littlerock, California, on June 1, 2011.
Examination of the airframe revealed no evidence of pre-impact mechanical malfunction or fire.
Examination of the engine revealed that the engine remained attached to the airframe by the engine mount. The engine had sustained moderate impact energy damage to the forward lower section encompassing the associated accessories and exhaust system components. Visual examination of the engine revealed no evidence of pre-impact catastrophic mechanical malfunction or fire.
Examination of the single drive dual magneto found that it was mounted on the accessory pad but could be easily rotated by hand. The magneto had sustained no apparent impact energy damage and remained in good condition externally. Examination of the attachment hardware found all required mounting studs, lock washers, and respective nuts to be in place and undamaged.
The magneto was removed to be further examined and tested. The examination found that the proper clamps, gasket, and attachment hardware had been utilized in accordance with Lycoming Service Instruction SI-1508B, dated 12/19/2007, and SAIB NE-08-26R2, dated 04/22/2010.
Examination of the associated magneto clamps, part number 66M19385, revealed the clamps had been contacting the accessory case and magneto flange in a proper configuration; however, the magneto clamps, respective magneto flange, and accessory case interface areas exhibited wear signatures consistent with fretting. These signatures were most prominent on the lower clamps and flange areas. The magneto flange remained intact and revealed no evidence of cracking.
No other abnormalities were noted that would have precluded normal operation.