Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Loss of Control on Ground: Cessna 120, N120MZ; accident occurred May 15, 2020 in Chatham, Sangamon County, Illinois

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Springfield, Illinois

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Chatham, IL
Accident Number: CEN20CA182
Date & Time: 05/15/2020, 1520 CDT
Registration: N120MZ
Aircraft: Cessna 120
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control on ground
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The pilot was conducting a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country flight at 5,500 ft mean sea level (MSL) above a cloud layer, and the airplane was not equipped with an attitude indicator or flight instruments to operate in instrument meteorological conditions. According to the pilot, the weather was forecast VFR at her destination. While en route, a cloud layer above her started lowering, so she descended to 5,000 ft MSL. The pilot could see blue sky between the layers when the two layers started to come together and then she inadvertently entered instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).

The pilot transitioned to an "inside instrument scan", turned on carburetor heat, and added full power to attempt to climb to find VFR conditions. After climbing 300 to 500 ft and about 5 minutes after entering the clouds, the pilot noticed a right turn had developed as confirmed on the heading indicator and her electronic flight device. The right turn became tighter, and the pilot recognized she was disoriented, and the airplane was descending. She elected to perform corrective action for a nose low unusual attitude and attempted to descend to visual flight conditions. The airplane broke out of the clouds about 1,500 ft above the ground (AGL) in a 25° to 30° right bank and 10° to 15° nose low attitude.

The pilot recovered to level flight and added full power. The airplane would not accelerate above 60 to 65 knots in level flight and the pilot felt the rudder was ineffective. The pilot elected to conduct a precautionary landing to nearby field that was muddy due to recent rains. During the landing, the airplane flipped over when the wheels dug into the ground. The vertical stabilizer, rudder, and both wings sustained substantial damage. Examination of the airplane revealed flight control continuity to all flight control surfaces. The pilot reported that the airplane was operating normally prior to entering IMC conditions.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's decision to continue flight in instrument meteorological conditions in an airplane not equipped for instrument flight, which forced her to perform a precautionary landing to a muddy field resulting in the airplane nosing over.


Personnel issues Decision making/judgment - Pilot
Environmental issues Wet/muddy terrain - Contributed to outcome
Environmental issues Clouds - Ability to respond/compensate
Aircraft Directional control - Not attained/maintained
Aircraft Pitch control - Not attained/maintained

Factual Information

History of Flight

Enroute-cruise Loss of visual reference
Enroute-cruise Loss of control in flight
Landing Off-field or emergency landing
Landing Loss of control on ground (Defining event)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport; Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 24, Female
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/21/2019
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 11/07/2019
Flight Time:  2868 hours (Total, all aircraft), 92 hours (Total, this make and model), 1178 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 117 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 29 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N120MZ
Model/Series: 120 No Series
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1946
Amateur Built:No 
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 9226
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 12/17/2019, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1451 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 28 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2675 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: C91 installed, activated, aided in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: C85 SERIES
Registered Owner: Mazzu Anthony J
Rated Power: 85 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation:
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time:
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 1500 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Light and Variable /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: Variable
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.96 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C / 17°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: St Louis, MO (1H0)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Chicago, IL (06C)
Type of Clearance: VFR; VFR on top
Departure Time:
Type of Airspace: Class E; Class G 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 39.704167, -89.717222 (est)

No injuries were reported after a small plane crashed Friday afternoon into an open field north of Chatham.

The plane crashed into a field north of Mansion Road near Wagon Ford Road around 3:19 p.m., Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell confirmed.

The 24-year-old female pilot and a 12-year-old female passenger were enroute from St. Louis to Chicago.

“She came on cloud cover and was not able to fly the plane on instruments,” Campbell said. “She dropped down below the cloud cover and evidently she was too low to the ground, and she had a crash landing in the field.”

Though the plane flipped over and ended up upside down in the wet field, both occupants emerged with no reported injuries.

The Sangamon County Sheriff’s office, Chatham police and fire departments and the Illinois State Police responded to the scene.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.


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