Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mooney M20J 201, N643RJ: Fatal accident occurred March 28, 2017 near Monroe County Airport (M40), Aberdeen, Mississippi

John K. Nuesch

Richard Arlin Justice

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office; Jackson, Mississippi
Lycoming; Williamsport, Pennsylvania 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Richard Arlin Justice:

NTSB Identification: ERA17FA139
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 28, 2017 in Aberdeen, MS
Aircraft: MOONEY M20J, registration: N643RJ
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.

On March 28, 2017, at 0615 central daylight time, a Mooney M20J, N643RJ, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees and terrain shortly after takeoff from Monroe County Airport (M40), Aberdeen, Mississippi. The airline transport pilot, who was also the owner of the airplane, and one passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed near the accident site at the time of the accident, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight destined to Bruce Campbell Field Airport (MBO), Madison, Mississippi.

The pilot and passenger departed M40 at 0614 for the approximate 1-hour flight to MBO. Weather conditions at the time of the takeoff included a broken ceiling at 1,800 feet above ground level (agl) and an overcast ceiling at 2,400 feet agl. The temperature was 18° C and the dew point was 18° C.

Video recorded by the M40 airport security system showed dark light conditions at the time of the accident, but it did not show the airplane takeoff; however, audio captured the airplane on the takeoff roll, during initial climb and through the accident sequence. The sound of the engine remained constant through the 1-minute flight, until sound consistent with the airplane impacting with trees was heard.

Review of radar data from Columbus Air Force Base (CBM), Columbus, Mississippi, located 15 miles south of M40, revealed four targets associated with the accident airplane. The first target indicated that the airplane was 400 feet mean sea level (msl) at a ground speed of 70 knots. The next two targets indicated that the airplane climbed to 600 feet msl at 70 knots, before the last target corresponded with a descending right turn at 500 feet msl.

The wreckage was located 2,500 feet west-southwest of the departure end of runway 18, in heavily wooded terrain. The wreckage path was oriented in a southeast to northwest direction and was approximately 400 feet long. Initial examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane struck the tops of the trees in a right wing low attitude. The right wing was separated and discovered at the initial point of impact. Trees near the impact site were progressively cut lower as the airplane continued forward. Several trees and branches near the final ground impact point displayed cuts consistent with contact with propeller blades. One propeller blade was was found 50 feet north of the wreckage. The wings and tail were separated and the top one-third of the cockpit area was removed. The fuselage came to rest inverted against a tree in a 45° angle. The engine remained attached to the firewall and the propeller flange and one propeller blade remained attached to the engine.

The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multiengine land. He also held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane single-engine sea and glider. Additionally, he held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine, airplane multiengine and instrument airplane. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued on March 9, 2017. At that time, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 20,000 hours.

The airplane was a single-engine, low-wing, four-place airplane with a 200-horsepower fuel injected four-cylinder engine and two blade constant-speed propeller. The airframe and engine had accumulated a total time of 2,873 hours and 908 hours since major overhaul, respectively. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was performed on March 23, 2017.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Richard Justice
When Dee Dee Larson was a little girl, her stepfather, Richard Justice, used to take her flying. 

They didn't drive to the beach or to visit family in Birmingham, Alabama -- they flew on Justice's planes. The 72-year-old lifelong Hatley resident had flown his entire adult life -- first as a crop duster, then as a commercial pilot for various companies in and around Mississippi. Even after his "retirement" a few years ago, Larson, who now lives in Starkville, said her stepfather kept flying one-off trips for nearby companies, as well as his own planes. He had two, which he proudly kept in a hangar near his home, she said. 

"Flying was his passion," Larson said. 

Justice passed away Tuesday morning when his single-engine plane crashed a mile from the Monroe County Airport on Votech Road between Amory and Aberdeen. The crash killed both Justice and his Lowndes County passenger, a Columbus business owner that authorities have not yet identified due to the family's wishes. 

Justice and his passenger took off from the Monroe County Airport at 6:14 a.m. on their way to Madison. The plane crashed at about 6:20 a.m., while Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell said it appeared Justice was attempting to return the plane to Monroe County Airport. 

Cantrell and one of his deputies found the crash site a little after 11 a.m. The scene was roped off and authorities from the Federal Aviation Administration are on their way to investigate, he said. 

Authorities don't yet know the reason for the crash.  

Justice's body was sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Pearl. Preliminary findings from Justice's autopsy in Jackson indicate he died from trauma from the crash and not from any medical condition, according to Monroe County Coroner Alan Gurley. 
A meticulous person 

It's not something that either Larson or her stepsister Kim Hays ever expected would happen. 

"He was just such a meticulous person," said Hays, who lives in Birmingham.  

Still, both Larson and Hays said it was the way he would have wanted to go. 

Larson's father had died when she was just a baby, and Justice married her mother when Larson was 4. Ever since, Justice was her dad, Larson said. 

"He's never treated me any differently than his two other children," Larson said. 

Both she and Hays remember him taking them on joyrides in his planes growing up. 

Once when Hays was 12 or 13, she had a friend over while Justice was watching football, and the two of them began badgering Justice to take them for a ride.  

"We just kept on, 'Daddy, take us flying, take us flying,'" Hays remembered. 

Justice was outgoing, cheerful and funny, they said. He loved telling stories, making people laugh and -- according to Larson -- embarrassing his children.  

"He was a really great storyteller," Hays said. "He had a repertoire of stories. ... He was just really a people person. He loved people." 

Larson emphasized her stepfather was one of the best pilots in the area. He worked for years as a commercial pilot first for Amory Garment, then for North American Classics out of Jackson and last from Stanley Smith Drywell in Alabama. He also was a flight instructor. Even after his retirement as a commercial pilot from Stanley Smith Drywall about four or five years ago, he would fly at least once a week. 

"We would say, 'Daddy, you're 73, you need to retire'," Hays said. "He would say, 'No, I don't want to. This is what I love to do.'" 

Larson said her family is keeping the family of the deceased passenger in their thoughts and prayers.


The passenger of a Tuesday plane crash at the Monroe County Airport will be laid to rest Friday.

John K. Nuesch, 64, of Columbus, was a passenger in the small plane that crashed shortly after takeoff from the Monroe County Airport.

His graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. at Friendship Cemetery, according to Memorial Funeral Home in Columbus. Visitation will be from 12 until 1:45 p.m. at the funeral home.

Nuesch was the president of American Glass Company and served on the executive board and finance committee of the Mississippi Associated Building Contractors.

Arrangements for the pilot of the plane, 73-year-old Richard Justice of Hatley, are incomplete at this time. Cleveland-Moffett Funeral Home in Amory is in charge of arrangements.

Investigators are still uncertain about what caused the plane crash.

National Transportation Safety Board Air Safety Investigator Aaron McCarter took questions in a short press conference at the Monroe County Airport on Wednesday afternoon. McCarter, who is serving as investigator in charge, and his team arrived Tuesday night and have been working the scene.

“We have no idea what happened at this time,” McCarter said.

Monroe County Coroner Alan Gurley said on Wednesday the preliminary autopsy of Justice shows he died from his injuries in the crash, not any type of medical problem.  The final autopsy report could take eight months, Gurley said.

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