Saturday, July 17, 2021

Mooney M-20J, N4474H: Fatal accident occurred July 15, 2021 and Incident occurred January 26, 2021

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.

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Alameda, California  
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Oakland, California

Location: Dinsmore, CA
Accident Number: WPR21FA272
Date & Time: July 15, 2021, 11:54 Local 
Registration: N4474H
Aircraft: Mooney M20J 
Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On July 15, 2021, at 1154 Pacific daylight time, a Mooney M20J airplane, N4474H, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Dinsmore, California. The pilot, the pilot-rated passenger and two other passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

Review of radar data revealed that the flight originated from Fullerton Municipal Airport (FUL), Fullerton, California at 0700. According to a family member, the pilot and the pilot-rated passenger departed for Perris Valley Airport (L65), Perris, California to pick up two rear passengers who were interested in purchasing a land parcel in Humboldt County, California. About 0730, the flight departed L65 northwest bound and climbed to a cruise altitude between 6,500 and 7,000 ft above ground level. Ground speed averaged about 130-140 kts for the first half of the flight, slowly increasing to between 140-160 kts later. Track data was lost about 1110 about 4-5 nm southeast of Dinsmore Airport (D63), Dinsmore, California.

A witness, located 0.25 miles east from the departure end of runway 09 at D63, observed the accident airplane circling the area around the airport twice before it landed on runway 27 (witness reported winds from the west). He then observed the airplane taxi down runway 09 before it had made a complete stop mid-runway and three individuals disembarked. When all three individuals boarded the airplane again, the pilot taxied towards the arrival end of runway 09. The airplane accelerated down the runway 09; the pilot rotated just short of the displaced threshold and according to the witness, barely cleared the fence. The rotation was not smooth, and it appeared as the pilot suddenly pulled the nose up (“jerked it”).

A video from a security camera located 300 ft east of the departure end of runway 09 revealed that the airplane took off towards the east. The wreckage was located about 1,600 ft beyond the departure end of runway 09 on a heading of 126°. Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane’s right wing impacted a tall redwood tree. Upon impact, the right wing separated and fell on the ground underneath the tree. The airplane came to rest inverted about 120 ft and, on the heading of 170°, from the first point of impact.

The wreckage was secured for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Mooney
Registration: N4474H
Model/Series: M20J
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KFOT,391 ft msl 
Observation Time: 11:35 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 25 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 12°C /12°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 300°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 500 ft AGL
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Perris, CA (L65)
Destination: Dinsmore, CA

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 3 Fatal 
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: Unknown
Total Injuries: 4 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 40.492028,-123.59822 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

The decedents have been identified as:

Henry Punt, age 69, of Los Angeles County;
Steve Sanz, age 63, of Orange County;
Jacquie Ann Figg, age 56, of San Bernardino County;
Kenneth John Malinowski, age 62, of Sacramento County.
Henry Punt

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Long Beach, California

January 26, 2021: Aircraft aborted takeoff and struck a runway light at Fullerton Municipal Airport (KFUL), Orange County, California.

Date: 26-JAN-21
Time: 19:55:00Z
Regis#: N4474H
Aircraft Make: MOONEY
Aircraft Model: M20J
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
Operation: 91


  1. Four people in a Mooney? Likely overloaded

    1. Quite possible. Other factors would include a moderately high field elevation ( approx. 2400 ft. MSL), departure just before local noon (high temperatures?) and rising terrain off either end of the runway.

    2. Depends, this is an early model. My 77 has 1000 lbs UL and that is without the UL increase STC. I can easily take 4 adults by leaving a bit of fuel on the ground.

    3. Ok well they had enough fuel to fly Atleast 4 hours (based on FlightAware), so I don’t see how this thing could have possible had the payload.

  2. Wonder if fuel starvation was a factor? They had just made a 4 hour 600 mi trip from Fullerton, CA (KFUL) to (D63). As far as I know D63 has no onsite fuel available and is unattended.

    1. Could be?....but you would think that after a 4 hour trip and after landing at D63.....the FIRST thing he would be checking is his fuel prior to taking's not like he was a student pilot. Had been flying for at least 25 years.

    2. OK.. Let's say He checked the fuel....Yup It's low. So now what? As far as I know, D63 doesn't have fuel available. So, Walk to the store about a mile down the street with a borrowed gas can in hand and get 5 gals of E85? Not a good plan

  3. It was on takeoff, according to a witness. Barely cleared the fence.
    Story in this article, includes comments from people who knew pilot:

    1. the witness states “I was just getting to the end of the runway where the plane was taking off. It was going to the south.” which departure from Rwy 9, with "Obstructions: 150 ft. trees, 525 ft. from runway, 2:1 slope to clear, APCH RATIO 4:1 TO DSPLCD THR." per AirNav: D73.

  4. Mooney M20J, 4 adults, 2510ft runway with a 20+ knot tail wind and obstacles at the end...........

    1. Obviously pulling back on control stick after initiating a stall spin recovery above the top of a redwood tree while at max t.o. gross weight on a downwind takeoff with low fuel and selector switch on empty tank (just saying) possible density factor all possibly a no go. One is forgivable, two is possible but three is usually reason to wait a few. Question is why would three de board and then re board. Change in wind direction sounds fishy to me, dr. Watson. Reported as clear and vfr with also 500 ft. ceiling. Bizzaro except for fact that it was allegedly to purchase land in well known marijuana country. Two and two equals five. Feed the chickens in the yard, by the table, near the park, at the zoo..?Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God

    2. I think it’s clear that after all that time some had to get out to go pee. Then the tailwind takeoff and half ass attempt and the tragic crash. So many in GA just winging it. No planning.

  5. A source close to the deceased was in contact with them earlier on that day and was told they were stopped in No. Calif. for fueling the airplane, am almost certain it was Napa. Apologies for lack of clarity, this tragedy has been hard for many.

    1. Nope, not on this trip. Flightaware shows No stop at Napa.

    2. There was a Beechcraft Bonanza crash in Napa around 9. The airport was probably closed

    3. The Bonanza crash was the next day.

    4. My family said they never made it to Napa. My dad was one of the passengers. And yes, the fueling situation seems confusing, especially with the weight of 4 people.

  6. Would be interesting to know why he aborted take-off earlier this year. Was he pushing the envelope or exceeding the envelope with take-off weights on more than one occasion?

    I flew a fully loaded Mooney Ranger with four adults out of Tucumcari, NM and Taos, NM back in the 70's. DA coming out of Taos was above 8,000' at 8:30 in the morning. I'm a flatlander and had never taken off or flown in high country so it can be done in a Mooney but we planned the take-off very carefully and had an abort point with plenty of runway left if we hadn't reached a certain speed at that point.

    We went into it with the full expectation we were going to have to abort, not that we were going to hope we would make it.

    One advantage we had that these folks didn't have... we had lower terrain off the end of the runway that gave us plenty of room to climb if needed. Turned out we didn't need it.

    Condolences to all involved in this accident.

    1. "Would be interesting to know why he aborted take-off earlier this year. Was he pushing the envelope or exceeding the envelope with take-off weights on more than one occasion?"

      Excellent question.

    2. If the January abort included submission of Accident/Incident reporting on NTSB Form 6120.1 some insight may be available there. If logbooks were not lost in the crash, the follow up after hitting the light might also include resolving a performance issue.

      The abort was in cool January temperatures at his home drome KFUL, same origin airport where he managed to get airborne in July temperatures with these four adults aboard and fuel for 4 hours flight.

  7. And we had a lot of runway in Taos. In this accident a 2,510' runway in a possibly fully loaded Mooney would be very iffy.

  8. The first tree contact the Mooney made was when it was 1,400 feet beyond the 2,500 foot long paved runway. It left behind a large piece of aero surface there. See video link and explanation below.

    The first tree they hit is shown in a Channel 7 KRCR video, which also shows the separated piece of aero surface from the plane on the ground streetside in front of the gate. You can use the linked matching location google map street view image to move around and view the area as it appeared when street view imaging was taken. That first hit tree measures approximately 1,400 feet beyond the end of the RW 09 pavement using Google Maps.

    (The match up of 00:43 KRCR video frame to the linked Google Maps Street View image can be verified by finding the white car in the background with red equipment in front of it, plus the abandoned pickup truck facing to the left behind the tree and the outbuilding at the left. Gate has changed since street view photo.)

    Channel 7 KRCR story with video of hit tree & shed aero surface:

    Matched location google map street view image:

    Twitter image of shed aero surface part at gate:

    1. That separated piece of aero surface on the ground in front of the gate is the vertical stabilizer fin, oriented with the painted tip at the left and the still-attached rudder facing the viewer.

      Two curving stripes below the painted tip of the fin can be seen in the KR posted photo. Those curving stripes are closer together at the leading edge of the fin and visible in the photo of the vertical stabilizer on the ground at the gate.

    2. "departure from Rwy 9, "Obstructions: 150 ft. trees, 525 ft. from runway, 2:1 slope to clear" per AirNav: D73.

    3. @Gbear - Airport reference data for Dinsmore/D63 incorrectly lists those trees as 525 feet beyond the end of the asphalt on runway 09 departure heading. Tree boundary is actually 1000 feet away. The Mooney clipped a tree 1400 feet away. Here are pinned map locations:

      Pinned location 525 feet beyond end of runway (open field):

      Pinned location 1000 feet beyond end of runway (tree boundary):

      Tree hit by the Mooney shown in news video:

      If you doubt the Google Maps measuring tool function, check it by measuring runway length on the image. The government agency reference data showing 525 feet to the trees must not have been updated since the 1956 activation of the airport.

  9. Am I reading this right- high DA, heavy, shortish runway, 20 kn tailwind?

    1. There is no AWOS for recording wind at Dinsmore.
      AWOS 25 miles away at KFOT, terrain in between, recorded:
      KFOT 152115Z AUTO 29011KT 10SM OVC008 14/12 A3006
      KFOT 152135Z AUTO 30010KT 10SM OVC008 14/12 A3006

      A video (240p) of the water trucks fighting the fire shows a lot of foliage movement in the wind. The impact and fire was creek side of CA36 and smoke is going to the left, confirming direction as a tailwind:

      Matched location street view perspective helps verify where the water truck video taker was pointing the lens (high "Y" branching match is visible at 00:09 in the video):

      Info known at the moment is that the Mooney 20J with four people aboard took off from D63's 2,510' long elevation 2,375' RW09 at 2:30 PM after burning off four hours of fuel weight getting there. No 100LL is listed as available at D63. A video shows there was a tailwind that was moving the foliage vigorously.

      Approximate wreckage location from video correlation:

    2. I don't think the weather could possibly equate with KFOT's. I would think D63 would be hotter than 14C (57F), but this is an indication that severe DA was not an issue (2375 just isn't that high to start with.) Plus it wouldn't have the same ocean breeze, IMO. I'm not seeing much spray and smoke evidence of wind at all in the Youtube video. Smoke seems to linger. Unless there was a lot of baggage, they were certainly well below max wt (I figure fuel and people would have them 200+ lbs under. There's got to be more to this accident than weight and wx.

    3. The preliminary report includes west wind according to a witness. The key to understanding this accident is the magnitude of the tailwind. Clearly, KFOT data can't properly represent D63.

      West wind direction in the youtube video makes smoke judgement difficult because it is receding away from the camera. The clump of foliage at the far right, observed head high above the road, is moving around a lot when viewed full screen on a desktop monitor.

      KFOT has cool coastal influence. For a inland location that can bound the D63 temperature possibilities, Hyampom (H47) is further inland and at lower elevation than D63. Hyampom recorded 88°F high, 65°F low on July 15 in Based on that, middle of the day at D63 might have been on the order of 80°F (27°C).

      Mooney POH for the early 20J has performance tables and later years have graphs. Some say marketing developed the early version and legal had a hand in the later ones. Data for tailwind takeoff performance is absent for the early version 20J flown in this accident. Two examples are linked below.

      1992 (upper), 1977 (lower):

      1992 unmarked:

  10. Poor decision careful who you fly with.....

  11. Density Altitude calculated at 5,000 feet. There is no way they were going to make it in a non-turbo charged 200 HP Mooney.

    1. Looks like it had a power flow exhaust too so a false sense of extra massive power boost from a 201hp non-turbo charged Mooney

    2. The Mooney may have also been upgraded with Monroy long range fuel tanks. That wing the first tree impact knocked off that was found by the gate can be examined for that.

  12. "He then observed the airplane taxi down runway 09 before it had made a complete stop mid-runway and three individuals disembarked. When all three individuals boarded the airplane again, the pilot taxied towards the arrival end of runway 09."

    Am I reading this right in that the pilot left the aircraft parked halfway down the runway, completely blocking it for however long it took the passengers to disembark, do whatever they needed to, and get back in the plane?? Looking at the airport diagram, there are ample areas on both ends of the runway (complete with hold short markings) that are supposed to be utilized to park your aircraft. Leaving your aircraft sitting right in the middle of the runway seems extremely unsafe, not to mention very rude behavior towards other users of the airport.

    However, I guess we shouldn't be surprised after seeing the photo posted above of the pilot posing in front of his aircraft with about 10 feet of the left wing completely over the hold short lines and illegally compromising the runway safety area. It seems there was an endemic disregard to rules and regulations particularly around runway safety.