After the Mooney M20L bounced on landing, the pilot aborted the landing by adding full power and confirmed that the flaps were in the takeoff position.
When she realized the plane was not climbing normally and that the engine did not seem to be providing full power, she prepared for an emergency landing to a parking lot between two large retail buildings in San Diego, Calif.
The plane hit a rooftop air conditioning unit on one of the buildings, collided with the roof’s perimeter cinderblock barrier, and then fell to the ground, resulting in one fatality and one serious injury.
A witness, who was a pilot, observed the airplane flying low over the runway in a nose-high attitude, and, when it crossed the departure end of the runway, it was only about 25 feet above the runway approach lighting.
The witness stated that he observed the airplane continue to fly low in a nose-high attitude, and he did not think it was going to clear the trees in its flight path. He further stated that just before reaching the trees, the airplane’s nose pitched up abruptly into a very nose-high attitude, and the airplane climbed about 100 to 200 feet, cleared the trees, but then stopped climbing.
According to the witness, “it looked like it stalled, followed by the left wing dipping.”
The witness added that the airplane then descended in a nose-high, left-wing-low attitude and went out of sight behind a building.
During a post-accident examination, the landing gear was found extended, which would have resulted in reduced climb performance.
The pilot operating handbook states that the landing gear is to be retracted during a go-around procedure.
The airplane’s initial nose-high attitude (before the abrupt pitch-up) also likely reduced climb performance.
It is likely that the pilot recognized that the airplane was entering an aerodynamic stall during the steep climb over the trees, lowered the nose, gained airspeed, and averted a spin. However, at this point, there was insufficient altitude to fully recover from the stall and stop the airplane’s descent before it hit the building.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to achieve climb performance and maintain sufficient airspeed during a go-around, which led to the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and experiencing an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to retract the landing gear in accordance with the go-around checklist.
NTSB Identification: WPR14FA320
This July 2014 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.