This November 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Mooney M20K. Location: Maine, N.Y. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The instrument-rated pilot had logged 1,500 hours. The accident happened at dusk in foggy conditions. After refueling, the pilot taxied to the end of runway 34 for takeoff. The weather observation taken about six minutes before the accident included a reported visibility of 1/4-mile in fog and an indefinite ceiling at 100 feet above ground level. The takeoff was normal. The airplane leveled off over the runway, accelerated, and then climbed into an indefinite ceiling.
After the takeoff, the pilot was issued a frequency change, which was acknowledged. However, the pilot was never heard to check in on the new frequency. The airplane was airborne for approximately 19 seconds and reached a peak altitude of 364 feet above field elevation. It hit terrain approximately 3/4 of a mile northeast of the airport.
The post-accident investigation did not find evidence of any pre-impact malfunctions of the airplane, engine, flight instruments, or autopilot were discovered.
The circumstances of the accident and flight path of the airplane during the flight are consistent with spatial disorientation of the pilot.
Probable cause: The pilot’s spatial disorientation, which resulted in a loss of control and subsequent collision with trees.
For more information: NTSB.gov