FYI: Aviation Accidents

On March 26, 2018, about 1053 Pacific daylight time, a Mooney M20E was destroyed when it impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from runway 29 at Marina Municipal Airport (OAR), Marina, California. The private pilot/owner received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed.

The airplane was based at Watsonville Municipal Airport (WVI), Watsonville, California. According to WVI operations personnel, about 0954 on the morning of the accident, the pilot parked his car just outside the Airport Operations Office, and came into the office to request a fuel topoff in his airplane, which was in his hangar there. The Operations Supervisor noticed that the pilot’s ability to walk had significantly deteriorated since he last saw the pilot a few months prior, but that the pilot appeared to be in good spirits. Shortly thereafter, the fuel truck pumped 25.4 gallons into the airplane. WVI surveillance cameras recorded the airplane-taking runway 20 for departure at 1035:54 PDT. No radio communications to or from the airplane were recorded either at WVI or OAR, which is located about 15 miles south of WVI.

One witness at OAR, who was located approximately midfield, reported that he saw the airplane lift off, and that the landing gear immediately retracted after breaking ground. He and two other witnesses all reported that they observed the airplane begin an unusually steep climb in an unusually high airplane-nose-up attitude. The airplane then pitched over to an approximately level attitude, and then began to yaw to the left. As it did so, the nose and left wing dropped. At this point in the flight, the airplane entered, via the upper frame edge, the field of view of a surveillance camera that was mounted on a building near the southwest corner of the airport. The left wing was the first item to appear in the frame. At that point the airplane appeared to be on a heading of about 160°, with about a 15° nose down pitch attitude, and in a descending flight path. The airplane continued to yaw left, the pitch attitude continued to decrease, and the trajectory became increasingly steep. By the time the airplane was about 3 airplane lengths above the ground, the pitch attitude was nearly vertical nose down, the top of the airplane was facing the runway 11 threshold, and the trajectory was near vertical. The airplane struck the ground in a near-vertical nose down attitude, fell back onto its underside, and a fire began immediately. The impact site was located just southwest of the intersection of runway 29 and taxiway C, offset about 300 feet from the runway centerline. The vertical distance from the top of the image frame to the impact point was about 10 airplane lengths, or about 230 feet.

Initial examination of the wreckage revealed that the bulk of the cockpit and cabin, and their contents, were consumed by fire. The wreckage was recovered to a secure facility for subsequent detailed examination.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an instrument-airplane rating. Review of his logbook revealed that he had a total flight experience of about 2,650 hours. He ceased flying in mid 2014 due to a family illness, and resumed in August 2017. The logbook indicated that he had accrued about 22.6 hours since then, all of which were in the accident airplane. The first 7.1 of those hours were dual instruction with a certified flight instructor.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) information indicated that the airplane was manufactured in 1965, and was equipped with a Lycoming IO-360 series engine. The pilot purchased the airplane in 1990, and had kept it hangared at WVI since 1999. Maintenance records indicated that the most recent annual inspection was completed on September 22, 2017. As of that date, the airplane had a total time (TT) in service of about 3,517 hours, and the engine had a TT of about 792 hours.

The 1054 automated weather observation at Monterey Regional Airport (MRY), Monterey, California, located 7 miles southwest of OAR, included winds from 110°