Saturday, October 01, 2011

Mooney M20K/231, N231EB: Accident occurred October 01, 2011 in Ridgefield, Fairfield County, Connecticut

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary -   National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA001 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 01, 2011 in Ridgefield, CT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/26/2012
Aircraft: MOONEY AIRCRAFT CORP. M20K, registration: N231EB
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

According to the pilot, he completed a preflight inspection, which included checking the fuel quantity and conducting an engine run-up, without any discrepancies noted. The airplane took off without incident; however, at about 1,100 feet mean sea level, when the pilot made a right crosswind turn, the engine lost total power. The pilot unsuccessfully attempted to restart the engine and subsequently completed a forced landing to a residential area. Postaccident examination of the airplane did not reveal any mechanical malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation. The fuel selector was observed positioned to the left fuel tank, which did not contain any fuel. The right fuel tank contained about 8 gallons of fuel. The fuel tanks were intact and there was no evidence of a fuel spill at the accident site.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: 

The pilot’s improper fuel management, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.

On October 1, 2011, about 1245 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20K, N231EB, operated by a commercial pilot, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power near Ridgefield, Connecticut. The certificated commercial pilot was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight which originated at Danbury Municipal Airport (DXR), Danbury, Connecticut, just prior to the accident. The flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to the pilot, he completed a preflight inspection, which included checking the fuel for contamination, and conducting an engine run-up, without any discrepancies noted. He stated that both fuel gauges indicated "about half," which corresponded with 14 to 19 gallons in each side, and he also visually confirmed the fuel quantity in each tank.

The engine started after two attempts and the pilot confirmed that all engine indications were normal prior to takeoff. The airplane took off without incident; however, at approximately 1,100 feet mean sea level, when the pilot made a right crosswind turn, the engine lost total power. The pilot switched fuel tanks, was unable to restart the engine and looked for a place to land. The pilot stated he could not recall his exact actions prior to the forced landing; however, he thought that he turned the fuel selector to the "OFF" position, leaned the mixture, and turned the master and the ignition switches off. The airplane subsequently struck trees during a forced landing to a residential area. The airplane came to rest inverted, which resulted in substantial damage to the fuselage, wings, and empennage.

First responders stated that a "small amount of fuel," approximately one quart, exited from the left fuel tank. In addition, a first responder indicated that when he arrived at the accident site, he turned the fuel selector from the left tank position to the off position.

A postaccident examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that the left fuel tank did not contain any fuel and the right fuel tank contained about eight gallons of fuel. There was no evidence that the fuel tanks had been compromised. In addition, there were no fuel stains on the wings or fuselage and there was no smell of fuel at the site. A fuel sample was taken from the right tank with no contamination noted.

The pilot reported 502 hours of total flight time, of which, 145 hours were in the same make and model as the accident airplane. He noted that he accumulated 10 flight hours in the same make and model of the accident airplane in the past 90 days.

According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1979, and was registered to the pilot in 2007. It was a low-wing, retractable tricycle gear, monoplane, equipped with a Continental Motors TSIO-360LB, 210-horsepower engine. The most recent annual inspection was completed on February 10, 2011. At the time of the accident, the airplane accumulated 2,661 hours of total time in service. According to the pilot's operating handbook (POH), the fuel flow at maximum continuous horsepower was between 22.5 gallons per hour and 24.2 gallons per hour. The total fuel capacity was 78.6 gallons, 39.3 gallons in each tank. A total of 3 gallons of the fuel were unusable, 1.5 gallons in each tank.

The airplane was last fueled on August 27, 2011. According to the fuel slip, line personnel added 12 gallons of fuel to both the left and right fuel tanks, for a total of 24 gallons. The pilot stated that he had the fuel tanks "topped-off" on that day, but the line personnel indicated to an FAA inspector that if a full "top-off" is requested, that they write that on the fuel slip. A copy of the fuel slip was obtained and "top-off" was not written on the fuel slip. In addition, according to an FAA inspector, 94 gallons of fuel had been added to the airplane since June 30, 2011, and the airplane had been operated approximately 8.1 hours since that time.

The airplane was equipped with an Electronics International Fuel Flow Instrument that retained the fuel quantity in the electronic memory. On October 4, 2011, FAA inspectors provided oversight while a mechanic applied power to the airplane. When the FAA inspector turned on the master switch, he noted that the fuel flow instrument aural warning activated, the fuel low and high/low fuel pressure warning lights were blinking, and the fuel quantity read-out was zero. He also noted that when power was applied, he could hear the fuel boost pumps operating.

On November 15, 2011, the engine was examined by two FAA inspectors. The propeller was rotated by hand and continuity was confirmed to the cylinders, camshaft, push rods, and the accessory drive section of the engine. Both magnetos were removed and disassembled with no defects noted. One sparkplug was removed from each cylinder and all were found to be in normal condition. The turbocharger was removed and rotated. The main fuel line from the fuel pump was removed and no fuel was noted in the line. The fuel lines from the fuel pump to the flow divider were removed with no fuel noted in the line. The fuel lines from the flow divider to the fuel injectors were removed and a small amount of fuel was noted. The fuel pump was removed and no defects were noted with the fuel pump drive shaft or gears.

The "Engine Power Loss – After Liftoff and During Climb" emergency procedure contained in POH, stated to:
1. Lower Nose, Establish Best Glide Speed.
2. Fuel Selector – Other Tank (Fullest Tank).
3. Throttle – Full Forward.
4. Mixture – Full Rich.
5. Magneto Switch – Both
6. Propeller – High RPM.
7. Low Boost – On.

Firefighters and police from Ridgefield, Ct., look over a small plane that clipped a tree and crashed upside down in the front yard of a home at 39 Briar Ridge Road in Ridgefield CT. Oct. 1, 2011. The injured pilot was rushed to Danbury Hospital following the crash. The site of the crash is near the border of Ridgefield and North Salem.

A plane crashed in front of a home on Briar Ridge Road in Ridgefield Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.
Photo Credit: Michael Duffy / CT

Fire and police officials including Paul Estefan, administrator of Danbury Municipal Airport examine a plane that crashed in front of a home on Briar Ridge Road in Ridgefield Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.

The pilot of a single engine plane, a Ridgefield man, was taken to Danbury Hospital for non-life threatening injuries early this afternoon after his Mooney crashed into the lawn of a Briar Ridge Road home in Ridgebury.

The accident occurred at 39 Briar Ridge Road near the Ridgefield-Danbury line, not far from the Danbury Airport.

Ridgefield fire and police personnel responded to the call around 12:44 this afternoon, shortly after the plane took off from nearby Danbury Airport.

The man took off around 12:35, and three minutes later he radioed a mayday call to the tower that he had lost his engine, Fire Chief Heather Burford said. She said the man is an experienced pilot.

At 12:40, Danbury emergency vehicles scrambled to a staging area near where the plane was flying. There was reportedly no formal flight path filed because of the nature of the flight.

Neighbor Kevin McCarthy helped the pilot out of plane before emergency responders arrived to bring him to the hospital.

Mr. McCarthy was working on his computer when he "heard a big bang. I figured it was an accident" at a nearby intersection, but he didn't see it when he looked outside. "My son went out... he started screaming, 'It's a plane.'" Mr. McCarthy told his son to call 911, while he went across the street. Ridgefield firefighters were dispatched when the 12:44 call, which first provided responders with the address of the crash, came in.

The 39 Briar Ridge family was not home.

When Mr. McCarthy got to the crash site, he saw the plane, upside down, under a large pine tree.

"He was moving but I couldn't get the door open. I went around the other side to try to get that one open but I couldn't get that one open either. Another neighbor showed up to help and they were able to break an already cracked plexiglass to get inside the fuselage. The pilot was able to unbuckle himself and help the men pull him out.

They pulled the pilot out, and a woman in the gathering crowd called the pilot's wife.

"He kept saying, 'thank you, thank you,'" Mr. McCarthy said.

The plane, after hitting the tree and apparently being tossed and flipped upside down by the branches as it fell, landed directly on the property's septic, knocking the concrete septic cover over a few feet. The Department of Environmental Protection arrived to investigate the crash, which caused some fluids including gasoline to leak.

The Federal Aviation Administration was also investigating the crash, and Danbury Airport officials were on the scene. Removing the plane on a truck will require the wings to be cut off, Chief Burford said.

Mr. McCarthy, who has lived on Briar Ridge for around 25 years said he was surprised, but not totally shocked by the crash. There are crashes every few years, he said, "but never so close."

RIDGEFIELD -- Neighbors called Stacey Lockard and told her an airplane crashed into her yard, but when she got home and saw the damaged aircraft, it brought tears to her eyes.

"I'm more upset seeing it," she said,

The small plane crashed on her lawn at 39 Briar Ridge Road early Saturday afternoon, injuring the pilot.

The crash took place at about 12:44 p.m., Ridgefield fire officials said, after a 12:35 p.m. takeoff from Danbury Municipal Airport.

When the crash happened, Lockard was in New York visiting her brother, she said. No one else was home during the crash, she said.

Fire officials said one person was on the plane when it crashed-- the pilot, who Ridgefield Fire Chief Heather Burford described as a man in his 50s.

Robert Baldwin, of Old Sib Road, was the pilot. He was taken by ambulance to Danbury Hospital, where he was being treated Saturday afternoon for unspecified injuries.

Hospital officials said he was in stable condition.

"He's fine," said Frances Baldwin, his wife, who had no further comments.

Robert Baldwin also did not wish to comment, she said.

No one else was injured, officials said.

Baldwin issued a "Mayday" call at 12:38 p.m., saying his engine was out, Burford said. Danbury Airport notified emergency personnel in Danbury and Ridgefield that the plane was in distress, Burford said.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said it would be a while before they knew what caused the crash.

When the plane crashed, a neighbor, 56-year-old Kevin McCarthy of Cel-Bret Drive, said he heard what he first thought was an automobile crash in progress and looked out the window to see the plane descending and hitting trees on its way to the ground.

The plane landed upside-down on the lawn after hitting a large pine tree on Lockard's property.

"It happened so quickly," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he dialed 911 and ran about 50 yards from his home to the crash site. McCarthy said he didn't know if he would find Baldwin alive.

McCarthy also saw fuel leaking from the plane, he said, "so I was getting nervous."

Baldwin was conscious, but groggy and bleeding from the nose and mouth, McCarthy said, as he helped him from his plane, a single engine Mooney model M20K, which Buford described as "very fast."

Late Saturday afternoon, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection had fuel removed from the plane, which could carry about 70 gallons, Burford said.

Burford said she hoped to get the plane off the Lockards' property by Sunday, but it could take until Tuesday.

Lockard has lived in the house on the property with her husband and their daughter for nearly two years. During that time, she said, she had considered the possibility of a crash, with all the planes flying into and out of Danbury Airport.

The plane fell to the ground close to the house's sun room.

"I feel lucky as can be ... usually we're in there on a Saturday," she said.

The house was apparently not damaged by the falling plane or the tree limbs taken down in the crash. Utility lines were apparently spared as well.

Although this crash happened, Lockard said she and her family had no intentions of moving.

"We love our house, we love our neighbors," she said. "The chances of this happening twice are possibly slim to none."

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