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Thu, Aug 09, 2012

Flight Instructor Cautioned Accident Pilot About Mountain Flying

NTSB Factual Report In October 2010 Accident Contains CFI Statement

The factual report produced by the NTSB from an October 25, 2010 accident near Lander, WY, and issued Wednesday contains a statement from the pilot's instrument flight instructor which indicates he cautioned the pilot about flying in mountainous regions with limited experience.

The pilot, who lived in Minneapolis, and his three sons, were all fatally injured when the Mooney M20J they were aboard went down in IFR conditions in the mountains. The wreckage was not discovered until a week after the accident occurred.

History of the Flight: On the afternoon of November 1, 2010, the wreckage of a Mooney M20J (similar airplane pictured below), N201HF, was located by ground searchers in the Wind River mountain range near Lander, Wyoming. The airplane became the subject of a week-long search after it was lost from ground-based radio communications and radar tracking facilities about 45 minutes after it departed from Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), Jackson, Wyoming, on October 25, 2010. The instrument rated owner/pilot and his three sons were fatally injured. The four had flown from the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area to JAC on October 21, 2010, and the accident flight was the first leg of the return trip to Minnesota. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan.

According to information from Lockheed Martin Flight Services (LMFS) and the FAA, on the morning of the accident, the pilot obtained his initial telephone weather briefing about 0918 mountain daylight time. About 1037, he telephoned again, obtained an abbreviated weather briefing, and filed an IFR flight plan. Both weather briefings included AIRMETs (Airmen's Meteorological Information) for mountain obscuration, turbulence, and icing along the planned flight routes and altitudes.

The 1037 flight plan specified a planned departure time of 1130, and a destination of Rapid City Regional Airport, (RAP) Rapid City, South Dakota. The filed route of flight was Dunoir (DNW) very high frequency omni-range (VOR) navigation facility, Boysen Reservoir (BOY) VOR, Muddy Mountain (DDY) VOR, and then direct to RAP. DNW, the initial navigation fix in that flight plan, was located about 22 miles north of JAC.

About 1237, the pilot used the internet to file another IFR flight plan, which again specified JAC as the origination airport. The filed departure time was 1247, and the filed route was DNW, Riverton (RIW) VOR, DDY, Newcastle (ECS) VOR, Rapid City (RAP) VOR, and Philip (PHP) VOR. The destination was Pierre Regional Airport (PIR), Pierre, South Dakota, and the filed altitude was 9,000 feet. About 1258, the JAC air traffic control tower (ATCT) controller issued the pilot his clearance, with some revisions. The altitude was amended to 16,000 feet, and the route of flight was to the KICNE intersection, then direct RIW, and then as filed by the pilot. The controller finished issuing the clearance by asking the pilot if he could accept 16,000 feet, and then informed the pilot that 9,000 feet was an "unavailable IFR altitude." The pilot responded that he would prefer 14,000 feet, and the clearance was then amended to 14,000 feet. KICNE, the initial navigation fix in the ATC-amended flight plan, was located about 26 miles south of JAC.

The airplane departed JAC runway 19 about 1306, and was in communication with, and tracked by, FAA air traffic control (ATC) at Salt Lake City Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). About 1340, the pilot filed a pilot report with LMFS which stated that he was 72 miles west of "Riverton" (the RIW VOR) at 14,000 feet, and that he was encountering "light chop," with a "trace of rime" icing.

The first radar target was recorded about 1309, and the airplane was tracked until about 1336, when it was at an altitude of 14,000 feet. The airplane was reacquired by ground radar about 1346, still at 14,000 feet. About 1347, the controller advised that the minimum IFR altitude in that sector was 16,000 feet, and asked if the pilot was climbing to that altitude, to which the pilot responded "..wilco." Two minutes later, the pilot reported that he might not be able to reach 16,000 feet. The controller responded that the minimum instrument altitude in that region was 15,800 feet, and asked the pilot whether he could maintain his own terrain clearance for the next 10 minutes. The pilot responded in the affirmative. About 1351, the pilot reported that he was in a "severe mountain wave" and that he was "descending rapidly out of 13,700" feet. About 1352, the last radar target associated with the airplane was recorded, with an indicated altitude of 13,300 feet. There were no further communications with the airplane.

The victims were recovered on November 2, 2010. Due to terrain elevation, topography, and seasonal conditions, the wreckage was recovered on August 24, 2011.

Personnel Information: According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land and instrument airplane ratings. He obtained his private pilot certificate in May 2002, and he obtained his instrument rating in June 2009. Review of his personal flight logs indicated that neither of those flight evaluations, or any of the associated training flights, was conducted in the accident airplane make and model. The pilot became the co-owner of the accident airplane in February 2010, when he had a total flight experience time (TT) of about 760 hours. At the time of the accident, he had a TT of about 940 hours, including about 138 hours in the accident airplane make and model, all of which was in the accident airplane. The remainder of time appeared to be in Cessna 172 and Beech 23 airplanes. Review of his flight logs indicated that the pilot had limited flight experience in mountainous terrain.

The three children were all male. Two were 14 years old, and one was 12 years old.

At the time of the accident, the pilot had logged a total of about 23 hours of actual instrument flight time, and about 22 hours of simulated instrument time. His total logged actual instrument time included about 3 hours in the accident airplane. The pilot's most recent flight review included an instrument proficiency check that was conducted in two flights on 2 days, about 1 week before the accident. The first flight was on October 16, 2010, and the pilot recorded a flight duration of 1.7 hours in his logbook. The second flight, on the following day, had a logged duration of 4.0 hours. Both flights were conducted in the accident airplane. Prior to those flights, the pilot's most recent logged instrument flight was on August 31, 2009, in a Beech 23 airplane.

Flight Instructor Comments: The certificated flight instructor (CFI) who provided most of the training for the pilot's instrument rating was employed by a company whose primary business was to provide accelerated flight training to pilots located across the United States. The pilot contracted with the company, and the CFI was assigned to provide the flight training to the pilot. Prior to that, neither individual was acquainted with the other. The CFI traveled to the Minneapolis area, provided about 40 total hours of training over a period of 10 continuous days, and provided the pilot with a logbook endorsement to take his instrument rating flight test. The CFI reported that the pilot had obtained some instrument training prior to the CFI's training period with the pilot. The CFI also reported that his training sessions with the pilot were conducted in the pilot's Beech BE-23 Sundowner, a rented Cessna 172, and a ground-based flight training device. Some of the training flights were conducted in actual instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The CFI noted that the training he provided did include the topic of aeronautical decision-making (ADM).

A few weeks prior to the accident, the pilot again contracted with the same flight training company and the same CFI to provide training for his commercial certificate. The CFI again traveled to the Minneapolis area and provided the flight training over the course of 4 days on two consecutive weekends. That training was conducted in the accident airplane, and the CFI provided the pilot with a logbook endorsement to take his commercial flight test. That endorsement was dated October 17, 2010.

During the course of that training, the pilot informed the CFI of his plans to fly the accident airplane to Jackson Hole in late October, and that he would take the commercial certificate flight test once he returned. The CFI reported that he advised the pilot about the potential hazards of a flight in that airplane in that area at that time of year. The CFI reported that he specifically cautioned the pilot that since the airplane was not turbocharged or pressurized, and was not equipped for flight into known icing, there was a consequent need for the pilot to plan and operate any flights accordingly, in order to provide sufficient safety margins and escape options. According to the CFI, the pilot told him that he had conducted flights to that location several times, and was cognizant of the risks. The CFI reported that the pilot gave him the impression that the pilot would conduct the upcoming flight in compliance with the CFI's suggestions.

In a telephone interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator, the CFI reported that overall, the pilot's performance was typical of the pilots he was familiar with through his employment, and that he recalled "nothing out of the ordinary" from his training sessions with the pilot. When asked, the CFI did not recall any specific strengths or weaknesses of the pilot, and did not recall any specific subject matter areas of difficulty. He stated that the pilot seemed to grasp all that was presented or taught to him, and that the pilot appeared to understand how to use the airplane performance charts. In summary, the CFI said that he had "no complaints" about the pilot.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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