Saturday, September 10, 2016

Plane crash bystander files lawsuit: Man who helped on scene of accident claims injuries against pilots, mechanics • Mooney M20M TLS, N72FG, fatal accident occurred July 11, 2014 in Greenwood, Johnson County, Indiana

Pilot William Gilliland and his family.

A Greenwood man has filed a lawsuit saying he was injured when he tried to help remove two men from a plane that crashed into a neighborhood in 2014. 

Stanley Breeden’s lawsuit is against the family of a pilot killed in a 2014 crash, the co-pilot who was injured and two companies that previously had worked on the plane’s engine.

Breeden was driving along Main Street in Greenwood on July 11, 2014, when the plane crashed into a neighborhood after taking off from the municipal airport.

Pilot William Gilliland was killed, and his co-pilot, Michael Elliott of Florida, was seriously injured. Breeden and other bystanders pulled Elliott from the burning plane. They tried to rescue Gilliland from the wreckage but were unable to reach him.

Gilliland was a Center Grove area resident who worked as a vice president for Simon Property Group and attended SS. Francis & Clare Roman Catholic Church and worked with the church to start its private school years ago.

Breeden’s lawsuit said he suffered serious, permanent injury, pain and suffering, mental and emotional upset and lost wages. The lawsuit filing did not specify what injuries Breeden suffered. At the time, Breeden said he had twisted his knee, which was still healing from meniscus surgery.

His attorney, Ashley Dayhuff, declined to comment.

Allegations made in a civil lawsuit are the opinion of the person filing and can be disproven at trial.

The lawsuit sites the investigation done by the National Transportation Safety Board after the crash, which listed the cause of the accident as a partial loss of engine power, the reasons for which could not be determined by examining the engine, and the pilot’s decision to continue takeoff despite early indications of engine issues, according to the federal report.

According to the report, the plane crashed shortly after 2 p.m. The pilot had planned to fly to Texas from Greenwood for an annual inspection and for the pilot to receive instrument flight instruction during the flight. Before taking off, the pilot had lost the clearance needed to take off due to a delay in time, but he and the co-pilot discussed how to address that situation, the report said.

Witnesses said the plane sounded fine while it was taxiing and leading up to takeoff, but some reported seeing blue smoke and hearing odd noises, such as a popping sound or the engine running loud when it began takeoff. Some saw the nose of the plane lower, and they thought it would land, but instead it rose higher into the air. The plane crashed shortly after taking off, striking two homes and a garage about a half-mile from the airport, the report said.

The engine of the plane had been repaired the year before, and the local mechanic at the Greenwood airport said he had serviced the oxygen system before takeoff and that the airplane sounded fine that day, the report said.

Investigators inspected the engine after the crash, and tests were also done, but due to the damage from the crash, they were unable to find any issues that would have caused the engine to fail that day, the report said.

Breeden’s lawsuit names both Elliott and the estate of Gilliland, along with Groh Aviation and Poplar Grove Airmotive, which did work on the plane’s engine, the lawsuit said.

Breeden asked for the case to go to a jury trial. Attorneys for the other parties were not available.


William Michael Gilliland:

NTSB Identification: CEN14FA356
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, July 11, 2014 in Greenwood, IN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/22/2016
Aircraft: MOONEY M20M, registration: N72FG
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The private pilot and flight instructor were repositioning the airplane for an annual inspection, and the private pilot planned to receive instrument flight training during the trip. Witnesses reported that the engine sounded good as the airplane taxied to the runway and during the engine run-up. However, several witnesses reported observing blue smoke trailing the airplane at the beginning of the takeoff and hearing the engine "popping" and "misfiring." The airplane was 50 to 100 ft above the ground and about one-quarter of the way down the 5,100-ft-long runway when its nose lowered slightly. Witnesses stated that they thought the pilot was going to land the airplane back on the remaining runway, but the airplane's nose then rose, and the airplane continued climbing. The airplane was described as being slow and "wallowing," with the nose pitching up and down slightly as it continued to climb to a maximum altitude of about 100 to 150 ft above the ground. The right wing dropped, and the airplane descended, contacting a garage and two houses before coming to rest in a residential backyard where a postimpact fire ensued. A postaccident examination of the airplane, engine, and engine components did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A partial loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined because postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Also causal to the accident was the pilots' decision to continue the takeoff despite early indications of engine anomalies.


On July 11, 2014, at 1419 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20M, N72FG, collided with the terrain shortly after takeoff from the Greenwood Municipal Airport (HFY), Greenwood, Indiana. The private pilot/airplane owner was fatally injured and the certified flight instructor (CFI) on board received serious injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged by impact and a postimpact fire. The airplane was registered to and operated by the private pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal/training flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight. The flight was departing under visual flight rules (VFR). The flight was originating at the time of the accident with an intended destination of the East Texas Regional Airport (GGG), Longview, Texas.

The purpose of the flight was to reposition the airplane to Texas for an annual inspection and for the private pilot to receive instrument flight instruction during the flight. The CFI stated the private pilot was going to return to Indiana and he was going to stay in Texas until the annual inspection was completed at which time he was going to fly the airplane back to Indiana. 

The CFI stated that the private pilot filed his flight plan inside the fixed base operator (FBO). They taxied the airplane to the end of the runway where the private pilot received his departure clearance which was different than what he filed. It took a while for the private pilot to figure out the new clearance and as a result, their clearance void time lapsed. The CFI stated they discussed how to handle the voided clearance. He advised the private pilot that since the weather was good they could depart using visual flight rules (VFR) and pick up an IFR clearance en route, or they could get a pop-up clearance. He stated they then got the oxygen system hooked up and performed a normal engine run-up. He does not recall any other events of the flight. 

Numerous witnesses reported seeing and hearing the airplane before and during the takeoff. They stated the engine sounded normal while the airplane was taxiing to runway 19 and throughout the engine run-up. Witnesses reported that the airplane sat at the end of the runway for 10 to 15 minutes before it departed. 

Witnesses reported seeing the airplane trailing blue smoke near the beginning of the takeoff ground run on runway 19 (5,100 ft by 75 ft). The witness accounts varied regarding what they saw and hear. One witness stated the engine was making a loud "popping" sound as if it was "misfiring." Another witness stated the engine was very loud and sounded as if it was going to self-destruct. The airplane continued down the runway and eventually became airborne. Additional witnesses reported the airplane was between 50 to 100 feet above the ground when it passed-by the fixed base operator which was about ¼ the way down the runway. These witnesses also described the sound of the engine as "popping" and "misfiring". They stated the nose of the airplane lowered slightly and they thought the pilot was going to land the airplane back on the runway, but the nose then rose and the airplane continued climbing. Witnesses stated the airplane was slow and "wallowing" with the nose pitching up and down slightly as it continued to climb to a maximum altitude of about 100 to 150 feet above the ground. One of the witnesses stated that he thought they were going to land the airplane back on the runway, but they continued the takeoff. The landing gear was reported to have been extended the entire time. Witnesses at the north end of the airport stated they did not hear the engine as the airplane turned to the south; however, they were not certain if it was because the engine power had decreased or because of their distance and position from the airplane. 

A witness who was in a parking lot just south of the airport, stated he saw the airplane as it was climbing from the airport. He stated the airplane was about treetop level, less than 100 feet above the ground. The witness stated he did not see smoke or hear any popping or backfiring. He did state that the engine sounded like it was at an idle or a low power setting. The nose of the airplane was slightly up, and the wings were level. He looked toward another airplane in the area and when he looked back, the airplane had disappeared behind the trees.

The airplane impacted two houses and a garage about 1/2 mile from the departure end of the runway. Two witnesses who saw the airplane descend behind the trees responded to the accident site and pulled the CFI from the wreckage before the airplane was engulfed in flames. One of these witnesses stated he checked the pilot for a pulse and did not detect one. 


Private Pilot

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land rating issued on April 2, 1999. He was issued a third class airman medical certificate with no restrictions on June 26, 2013. The pilot's most recent flight review endorsement was dated July 24, 2013. The flight review was conducted in the accident airplane. 

The pilot's logbooks contained entries dated from April 25, 1998, thru July 10, 2014. The logbooks showed that the pilot had a total flight time of 434.7 hours. He began flying Mooney M20 airplanes in June 2010, and had accumulated 103 hours of flight time in M20 airplanes. The pilot logged 9.9 hours in the accident airplane during the three days preceding the accident. 

The pilot's logbook contained an endorsement for his instrument knowledge test on January 27, 2014, and an instrument rating flight proficiency/practical test signoff dated August 31, 2013. There was no FAA record that the pilot had taken his instrument practical or written tests. 

Certified Flight Instructor

The CFI held a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine land airplane and instrument airplane ratings, and a flight instructor certificate with single-engine land and instrument ratings. His flight instructor certificate had an expiration date of August 31, 2015. The CFI was issued a second class airman medical certificate with a limitation for corrective lenses on November 1, 2013.

The CFI reported that he had a total of 1,610 hours of flight time. The CFI reported having 67 hours of flight time in Mooney M20 airplanes, 57 hours of which were as an instructor. 

The pilot's first flight with the accident CFI was an aircraft familiarization flight in June 2012. They flew 13 instrument training flights together with the last flight being the day prior to the accident.


The accident airplane was a Mooney M20M, serial number 27-0118. The Mooney M20M is a single-engine, four-place design, with retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane was powered by a 310-horsepower, turbocharged Lycoming TIO-540-AF1B six-cylinder, reciprocating engine, serial number RL-5317-61A. The airplane was equipped with a three-blade McCauley model B3B32C417-C propeller assembly.

Maintenance records show the last aircraft, engine, and propeller annual inspections were completed on July 16, 2013, at a total aircraft time of 1,754.8 hours. The engine had 795.1 hours since overhaul when the annual inspection was accomplished. The last logbook entry was dated April 1, 2014, which consisted of an oil change at a hobbs time of 1,797.8 hours. The pilot's logbook indicated he flew the airplane 26.1 hours since the oil change, which would have resulted in an approximate aircraft total time of 1,823.9 hours at the time of the accident. 

The airplane was being flown to a Mooney service center for an annual inspection at the time of the accident. A representative at the service station stated that it was to be a routine annual inspection and he was not aware of any specific problems with the airplane. 

Fuel records indicate the airplane was fueled twice on the day prior to the accident. The last fueling was at 2126 when 38.33 gallons of fuel were added. 

The pilot purchased the airplane on June 15, 2012. After purchasing the airplane it was determined that Airworthiness Directive (AD) 2012-19-01 had not been complied with. The engine was removed and sent to a repair station in March 2013, so the AD could be complied with. The major work consisted of replacing the crankshaft and repairing the crankcase, camshaft, cylinders, and fuel pump. The engine was shipped back to the owner and reinstalled on the airplane in July 2013.

The local mechanic who worked on the airplane stated he had not spoken to the pilot in the month prior to the accident up until the day prior when the pilot contacted him to service the oxygen system. He stated he did so just prior to the accident takeoff. He stated the airplane sounded good when the pilot was taxiing and during the engine run-up before the accident flight.


Weather conditions recorded by the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS), located about 13 miles northwest of HFY, at 1454 were: wind variable at 4 knots, 10 miles visibility, scattered clouds at 5,500 ft, scattered clouds at 25,000 ft, temperature 26 degrees Celsius, dew point 12 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 30.19 inches of mercury. 


The accident site was located 0.46 miles from the departure end of runway 19. The left wing contacted the roof of a residential garage and the wingtip became imbedded in the roof. The garage was on the property next to the final impact site. An outboard section of the left wing was located on the driveway at this same residence. The airplane separated the gutter off the back of the house. The airplane contacted the cement pad between the house and garage. The first main ground impact occurred adjacent to the cement pad. This initial ground scar was approximately 12 ft long. The second ground scar began about 13 ft from the end of the first scar. This ground impact mark was about 10 ft long and 12 inches deep and contained the pitot tube. The airplane then traveled through a chain link fence and into the back yard of the neighboring residence. The airplane contacted a riding lawn mower and separated a metal awning from the back of the house. 

Witnesses stated that there initially was a small fire in the area of the engine. They used a garden hose in an attempt to contain the fire; however, the fuselage was subsequently engulfed in flames.

The engine was separated from the firewall. The propeller remained attached to the engine. The fuselage was burned from the firewall to the empennage. The cockpit floor was burned, but the underside of the fuselage was not burned. The fuselage belly panel was separated during the impact sequence. 

The left wing was separated from the fuselage. The inboard section of the wing was burned with the outboard section of the wing bent up and rearward. The wing did not contain any fuel. Both the flap and aileron were separated from the wing. Control continuity was established in the wing up to the point where it was separated from the fuselage and from the separation forward into the cockpit.

The right wing remained attached to the fuselage. The outboard half of the wing was bent up and rearward. The aileron and flap remained attached to the wing. Flight control continuity was established from the flight controls to the forward cockpit area. Fuel was visible in the right wing fuel tank. 

The main fuel line from the firewall to the fuel pump was severed. The outlet fitting from the firewall was bent from impact. The fitting was straightened and approximately 23 gallons of fuel drained out of the line from the right fuel tank which indicated the fuel selector was positioned on the right fuel tank. The aircraft fuel filter contained clean fuel. The filter contained a minor amount of debris.

The empennage was bent and partially separated from the aft fuselage. The elevator and rudder remained attached to their respective stabilizers. The elevators sustained minor impact damage. The top of the rudder was bent to the left. The rudder control tube was separated just forward of the empennage. Control continuity was established from the rudder and elevator up to the base of the cockpit controls. The pitch trim actuator indicated the trim was set in the takeoff position. 

The cockpit instrumentation was destroyed by impact forces and the post impact fire. The throttle and mixture controls were full forward. The propeller control was missing. The control cables remained attached to their respective components on the engine. 

Engine and Propeller

The propeller remained attached to the engine. One propeller blade was bent rearward beginning near the butt end of the blade. The outer third of the second blade was twisted. The third blade was twisted mid-span and nicks were visible on the tip of the blade. The propeller hub was smashed and showed minor torsional twisting. The propeller was removed from the engine during the engine examination. 

The dip stick did not contain any oil; however, the engine did not exhibit any evidence of oil starvation and a large oil stain was present on the ground where the engine came to rest.

The top spark plugs were removed and the engine crankshaft was rotated at the vacuum pump drive. Valve train and crankshaft continuity were established throughout the engine. Compression and suction were achieved on all cylinders. All of the cylinders were examined with a lighted boroscope and no anomalies were observed.

The number two lower spark plug was obstructed by the impact damaged exhaust pipe and it was not removed. The number six lower spark plug electrode porcelain insulator sustained impact damage and the spark plug was observed to be wet with oil. The remainder of the spark plugs showed normal wear when compared to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug Card AV-27.

The fuel flow divider, fuel injector servo, injector nozzles, and engine driven fuel pump were all secured on the engine. The fuel flow divider was disassembled and the diaphragm was intact. The fuel injector nozzles were removed and all were clear of debris with the exception of the number two cylinder nozzle which was partially obstructed with debris. The engine driven fuel pump turned freely by hand. The fuel inlet screen on the fuel injection servo was removed and found to be clear of debris. The engine driven fuel pump and the fuel injector servo were retained for further examination.

The upper deck pressure line nozzles were all connected to the injection nozzle assemblies with the exception of the line to the number 2 cylinder nozzle which was disconnected and bent upward 90 degrees. Soot was observed on the injector nozzle arm and debris was observed inside the nozzle arm. The upper deck lines and injection nozzles were retained for further examination. 

The turbocharger, intercooler, waste gate, and air box were secured on their respective mounts. The turbocharger wheel rotated freely and no scoring on the internal walls was noted. The intercooler and the differential controller both sustained impact damage. No other anomalies were noted. 

Both magnetos were removed from the engine and retained for further examination. 


An autopsy of the pilot was performed by Indy JM Forensic Consulting, in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 12, 2014. The private pilot's death was attributed to blunt force injuries sustained as a result of the accident. 

The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) toxicology report noted negative results for all substances tested. 


The J.P. Instrument EDM-700/800 panel mounted gauge that can monitor and record up to 24 parameters related to engine operation was recovered from the accident site and sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorder Division. The unit sustained impact damage and had missing components that were required for a potential recovery of the unit's data. Therefore, no data was recovered from the unit.

On August 5, 2014 the magnetos, engine driven fuel pump, and fuel injection servo were examined under the supervision of the NTSB.

Both magnetos sustained significant heat damage from the post impact fire. The magnetos were opened and examined. The internal components of both magnetos were in place and melted from heat exposure. Both magnetos contained aftermarket points which were intact. A functional test could not be performed due to the thermal damage. 

The fuel inlet fitting on the engine driven fuel pump was bent due to impact. The fitting was replaced and the pump was placed on a test bench. The pump operated, but leaked fuel from the housing. The pump was opened and it was determined that the fuel leak was a result of an o-ring and gasket that were melted from the post impact fire.

The fuel injection servo was examined. The mixture control functioned. The servo was placed on a test bench for operational testing. The servo functioned to operational specifications.

The two upper deck pressure lines, the fuel injection nozzles, and 6 deck pressure orifices were sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for examination. The #2 pressure line sustained a 90° bend near one end of the line. There was also evidence that the #2 upper deck line sustained thermal damage including metal discoloration, sooting, and thermal degradation of attached rubber hoses. All of the remaining attached polymeric hosing was damaged to varying degrees. The #1 pressure line did not exhibit similar thermal or mechanical damage.

Debris was removed from the interior of the #2 pressure line, the nozzles and the pressure orifices. All of the material removed was examined and the test results indicated a spectral match indicating that the residue was consistent with the damaged fuel hose material. The connections on the #2 deck line were x-rayed to determine clamp position and then were compared to similar x-rays taken of #1 deck line. It was determined that clamp positions were consistent between the two upper deck pressure lines. 

An August 13, 2014, an exemplar engine was test at Lycoming Engines under the supervision of the NTSB. The purpose of the test was to determine how the engine would operate if one of the upper deck pressure lines disconnected from its associated nozzle. The engine was placed in a test stand, was started and ran normally. The #2 cylinder upper deck pressure line was then disconnected, the engine was again started and it continued to run without interruption.

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