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N9165T accident description

West Virginia map... West Virginia list
Crash location 38.248611°N, 80.976111°W
Nearest city Summersville, WV
38.281220°N, 80.852598°W
7.1 miles away
Tail number N9165T
Accident date 07 Dec 2006
Aircraft type Mooney M20R
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On December 7, 2006, about 1305 eastern standard time, a Mooney M20R, N9165T, was destroyed during a forced landing near Summersville, West Virginia. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. The flight was operating on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan between Branch County Memorial Airport (OEB), Coldwater, Michigan, and Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), Raleigh, North Carolina. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to excerpts from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control accident package, the airplane departed Coldwater at 1130, with a clearance to 10,000 feet. At 1132, the pilot contacted Cleveland Center, and was cleared to 13,000 feet. At 1154, the pilot contacted Indianapolis Center with the airplane level at 13,000 feet.

At 1253, the pilot reported "engine issues" and that he needed the next "v-f-r" airport. The controller asked for clarification, and the pilot stated that he had "engine problems." When asked if he was declaring an emergency, the pilot replied, "not at this point, but I want you to help me…find a v-f-r airport." The controller acknowledged the request, and the pilot added, "I want to avoid ice." When the controller asked him if he was in icing conditions, the pilot reported he was at 13,000 feet, "just on top" of the clouds, and was not in icing.

At 1254, the pilot stated that he needed "lower right away." The controller then asked the pilot if he needed to climb, and the pilot replied that he needed to descend "right away to get to warmer temperatures." The controller then cleared the pilot to descend to 11,000 feet, which the pilot acknowledged.

At 1256, the controller cleared the airplane down to 7,000 feet, which the pilot acknowledged. About 15 seconds later, the controller advised the pilot that Beckley, West Virginia, had the "first VFR airport," but that the weather information was over an hour old, and "we don't want to head you that way." She also noted that the "next one" was Roanoke, with visibility 10 miles and clouds scattered, at 5,500 feet, and the pilot responded, "that sounds great." When the controller tried to confirm his desire to proceed to Roanoke, the pilot responded, "I’ll try to continue, yes, at a lower altitude, maybe the engine catches again. I think I have some ice somewhere in my engine," which the controller acknowledged.

At 1257, the pilot advised, "I don't really think I'll make it that far…I need to get something closer." The controller then asked the pilot if he would like to attempt Beckley. He said that he would, and was subsequently cleared for that airport. The controller then gave the pilot the latest, hour-old altimeter setting, and asked the pilot if he was out of ice yet. The pilot responded, "out of ice, but not in v-m-c." The controller then asked if the pilot had declared an emergency, which the pilot confirmed he had. Shortly after that, the controller cleared the pilot down to 5,000 feet, which the pilot acknowledged.

A few seconds later, the controller provided an updated heading, and the pilot responded, "gotta keep that going…I don't think I have any engine power." The controller then stated that Beckley was at the pilot's 2 o'clock position, about 35 miles. The pilot responded, "need something closer," and the controller then stated that the only other airport she had was at Summersville at 11 o'clock and 13 miles, which the pilot responded, "okay, do it, do it, do it."

The controller then cleared the pilot direct to Summersville, and advised him there was no reported weather for the airport and that the airport had "runway four and two two." The pilot responded that he needed vectors, and the controller advised him that the heading was 120 degrees, 11 o'clock and 12 miles.

At 1300, the controller stated, "they have a three thousand foot runway, sir, and runway four two two, sir, descend and maintain four thousand," to which the pilot responded, " engine power."

Shortly thereafter, the controller updated the heading, which the pilot acknowledged. The controller then told the pilot to maintain 4,700 feet, if able, and the pilot responded, "not able."

About 1301, the controller asked the pilot if he was "still i-m-c," and the pilot responded, "affirmative."

About 40 seconds later, the controller asked the pilot if he could make a right turn, or if he were "i-m-c," and the pilot responded with his call sign. There were no further transmissions from the pilot.

There were a number of additional transmissions from the controller regarding the location of Summersville Airport, and the location of the airplane relative to interstate highway I-19, which the airplane subsequently overflew.

At 1304, the controller reported radar contact lost.

According to a farmer, he was outside when he heard the airplane "whoosh" overhead, through a snow squall. He saw it disappear over a hill, then saw a ball of fire and smoke. The farmer told his wife to call 911, then proceeded to the accident site where he found the airplane in flames.


The pilot, age 46, held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single engine land, multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. On his latest FAA second class medical application, dated March 8, 2006, the pilot indicated he had 2,390 hours of flight time. The pilot’s logbooks were not located.


The airplane was a 1995 Mooney M20R Ovation, powered by a Teledyne Continental Motors IO-550-G engine. The airplane’s maintenance logbooks were not located.

The airplane was not approved for operation in known icing conditions.

According to the Mooney M20 pilot's handbook, under "Icing Protection," was, "continued operation of the induction system in the event of intake air being obstructed is provided by activation of the alternate air system. The alternate air is automatically or manually controlled. When the door is opened, unfiltered, relatively warm air, from engine compartment, is admitted into the induction system."

There was also a manual alternate air control that could have been activated by the pilot.


Weather, reported at Raleigh County Memorial Airport (BKW), Beckley, West Virginia, about 35 nautical miles to the south, at 1251, included winds from 290 degrees true, at 12 knots, visibility 2 1/2 statute miles, a scattered cloud layer at 1,800 feet, a broken cloud layer at 2,500 feet, an overcast cloud layer at 2,900 feet, temperature -2 degrees Celsius, dew point -7 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 30.20 inches Hg. Station elevation was 2,505 feet.

Weather, reported at Yeager Airport (CRW), Charleston, West Virginia, about 30 nautical miles to the west, at 1241, included winds from 340 degrees true, at 23, gusting to 34 knots, 1/2 mile visibility, snow squalls, vertical visibility 200 feet, temperature -1 degree Celsius, dew point -4 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 30.20 inches Hg. Station elevation was 1,023 feet.

At 0854, the pilot contacted the Lansing Automated Flight Service Station to obtain a weather briefing and file an IFR flight plan for 9,000 feet en route. Following the filing, the specialist advised the pilot that there was a front across the eastern "edge" of West Virginia. He also noted IFR conditions in the departure area and along the pilot’s route to the West Virginia/Virginia border, and moderate icing below 10,000 feet.

The pilot then asked the specialist, "does that mean at about ten thousand…I’m out of clouds…I’m in the clear?" The controller responded, "No, no what that means is that…if you’re in clouds or in precipitation the possibility for moderate icing."

The pilot then stated, "is real good, uh above ten thousand feet it means that it’s probably too cold," and the specialist answered, "yeah." The pilot then stated, "and you won’t get icing on your…flight," and the specialist responded, "yeah."

The pilot then stated, "but you have no idea if…that might get me on top," and the specialist advised him that he would check the area forecasts and see what the cloud tops were forecast to be.

The specialist subsequently noted that in "southern West Virginia, the West Virginia area, you’ll get out that icing area and then as you get into Virginia, there will be another icing area…moderate icing between the freezing level and flight level two zero zero."

The specialist also noted that there was turbulence below 12,000 feet, and cloud tops over West Virginia were forecast to be 10,000 to 12,000 feet.

The pilot then stated, the trick’s to get on top and stay on top, and the specialist stated "correct."

After receiving the weather briefing, the pilot changed the en route altitude to 13,000 feet.


The wreckage was located in the vicinity of 38 degrees, 14.92 minutes north latitude, 80 degrees, 58.56 minutes west longitude. It was just beyond the southern edge of a farmer's field, in woods, about 1,470 feet in elevation.

The wreckage path was oriented along a heading of about 170 degrees magnetic. It began with scars in the snow and ground, about 10 feet in length, on the side of a hill with about 15 degrees up-slope, and 30 degrees, left down-slope. The scarring then disappeared, consistent with the airplane becoming airborne again, until the top of the hill, where a stranded barbwire fence was broken. Ground scars then continued about another 50 feet, at a slight down angle, through some woods. Along the ground scars, the right and left wings were separated from the fuselage, which came to rest upright, at the end of the wreckage path. Distance from the initial scarring to the main wreckage was about 270 feet.

All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the scene. The fuselage, including the cockpit area and all instruments, were consumed by fire. Due to the condition of the wreckage, flight control continuity could only be confirmed from the aft part of the cabin area to the rudder and elevator. The landing gear were up, and flap positions could not be confirmed.

The engine exhibited thermal damage, most notably in accessory section. The engine-driven fuel pump and the fuel lines also exhibited thermal damage. The propeller was not fire-damaged. All three propeller blades were bent aft, with some leading edge burnishing near the tips.

The manual alternate air control mechanism could not be documented at the scene; however, an airframe and powerplant mechanic subsequently determined that it had been activated. Fuel tank vent blockage could also not be documented due to impact and fire damage.


The engine was shipped to the manufacturer to attempt an engine test cell run with Safety Board oversight. Some external components were replaced due to thermal damage, most notably the fuel pump, which was dissembled. During the disassembly, no preaccident anomalies were noted.

Engine compression tests revealed leakage from most of the cylinders. Several engine start attempts were made, with restrictions in a number of fuel supply elements found.

After cleaning the elements, the engine was started, and the throttle was advanced to full open where it maintained 2,750 rpm for 5 minutes. The throttle was advanced from idle to full six times, with no hesitation, stumbling or interruption noted.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, South Charleston, West Virginia. Cause of death was listed as "multiple injuries associated with smoke and soot inhalation." Toxicological testing was performed by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with cyanide and carbon monoxide found in the pilot’s blood, but not noted in tissue.

NTSB Probable Cause

The airplane's encounter with in-flight icing, which resulted in a loss of engine power. Contributing to the accident were the pilot's improper weather evaluation, the in-flight icing conditions, the reduced visibility from a snow squall during the forced landing, and terrain unsuitable for a forced landing.

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