Aircraft: Mooney M20. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Copake, N.Y. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The accident flight happened at night. The phase of the moon was waxing crescent with only 22% of the moon’s visible disc illuminated. The 1,410-hour pilot was flying on an IFR flight plan although the weather conditions at the time were VFR. The destination airport was in mountainous terrain at an elevation of 739 feet MSL.
About 10 miles from the destination airport, and at an altitude of 3,900 MSL, the pilot elected to cancel his IFR clearance. He began a descent consistent with a 45° entry to a left downwind leg of the airport traffic pattern, which was 1,700 feet MSL.
About two minutes later, the airplane had descended to 2,400 feet, which placed it a 1/4 mile from the 2,000-foot summit of a mountain located approximately five miles from the destination airport. About 10 seconds later, the airplane had descended to 2,100 feet, about 1,000 feet horizontally from the summit.
The airplane crashed in trees near the summit. Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to monitor and maintain clearance from mountainous terrain during a visual descent to the destination airport at night, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain.
NTSB Identification: ERA11FA055
This November 2010 accident report is are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.