Report Shows Engine Problems In Mooney Crash

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A recently released NTSB factual report on the May 23 crash of South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer's Mooney M20E says the Lycoming engine had flown just 20 hours since a recent overhaul, and suggests that some bolts may have been incorrectly installed. The piston single was halfway down the runway at a private airstrip near Blacksburg, S.C., when power began to drop, according to passenger John Leonhardt, who holds a commercial pilot certificate. Bauer said there wasn't room left on the runway to abort, so he took off. The Mooney collided with trees and power lines. Both men suffered serious injuries, and the airplane was destroyed in a post-crash fire. The NTSB report indicates that at least two bolts securing an engine induction tube were a quarter-inch too short and had vibrated loose.

At the accident scene, investigators found two intake bolts missing from the engine block, while the washers that were supposed to hold them in were not flattened, meaning the bolts weren't properly locked in place. According to Leonhardt, Bauer had taxied the Mooney to Runway 6 and then performed an engine run-up with no anomalies noted. He said Bauer then taxied into position, held the brakes and increased the engine power to full power at 2,600 rpm before starting the takeoff roll. Bauer told the NTSB he didn't compute the takeoff distance for the soft strip, and investigators found that the 1,383-foot runway was about 200 feet too short to allow the Mooney to take off and clear a 50-foot obstacle. The NTSB investigation is continuing and no probable cause has been reported.