According to an FBO employee who was a witness to the accident in Angel Fire, N.M, the weather at the time of the accident included strong, gusting winds from the west. The employee asked the pilot of the Mooney M20E about his intention to fly. He noted the pilot seemed “confident” about his ability to fly and that he was not concerned about the wind.
The pilot, accompanied by three passengers, left the FBO. The pilot had no prior experience flying out of the accident airport and it was the highest elevation airport he had ever used. In addition, he had limited experience flying in mountainous areas.
As the airplane took off, the reported wind was 33 knots, gusting to 47 knots. The FBO employee said the airplane was crabbed into the wind about 40° right of the runway’s heading.
The plane rose and fell repeatedly and its wings rocked. When the plane was between 75 and 150 feet above the ground, the left wing dropped. The plane rolled left and hit the ground upside down and nose-first, killing the pilot and his passengers.
The post-impact examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.
A weather research and forecasting model indicated that, at the time of the accident, the accident site was located within a turbulent mountain-wave environment, with low-level windshear, updrafts and downdrafts, downslope winds, and an environment conducive for rotors, that is a violent rolling wave of air occurring in lee of a mountain or hill in which air rotates about a horizontal axis.
The NTSB determined the probable causes of the accident to be the pilot’s loss of control while flying in a turbulent mountain-wave environment. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s overconfidence in his ability to safely pilot the airplane in gusting wind conditions, and his lack of experience operating in mountainous areas.
NTSB Identification: CEN13FA183
This March 2013 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.