Mooney Well Below Approach Before Hitting Tower


The Mooney M20J that hit a power line tower in Maryland was well below the the approach the pilot was trying to fly, according the NTSB’s preliminary report. Although the report does not determine cause, it does describe a long list of heading and altitude errors on the approach to Montgomery County Airpark, which ultimately ended with the Mooney hanging from wires and a tower about 100 feet above the ground. It also notes that the pilot of an aircraft ahead of the crash plane went missed because the airport was below minimums.

The report says the Mooney was 500-600 feet low on the final 5 nautical miles of the approach and actually briefly descended below the elevation of the airport in the last 2 nautical miles. It hit the tower and power lines 1.25 NM from the airport. In a 911 call after the crash, the pilot told a dispatcher that he “got down a little lower than I should have.” The report says the pilot also questioned the accuracy of his altimeter in media interviews, but the altimeter was “well within” limits when tested. The 65-year-old pilot and his 66-year-old female passenger were seriously injured in the crash and power was disrupted to as many as 120,000 people during the seven hours it took to rescue the couple.

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  1. The flight must have been horrifying for the passenger. 120,000 locals have plenty of reason to be ticked off at GA. All because of what appears to be poor decision making (if not willful misconduct too) on the part of one individual. Sad.

    God bless.

  2. The guy is a DC lawyer. Nothing personal you doctors and lawyers out there, but you know your track records. Too much airplane for too little experience frequently. And because it is you nature to succeed, you push limits. You know the old saying. “If it had not been for the Bonanza, the world would have been over populated with doctors.” And I have heard that said with Lawyers and Mooneys inserted into the phrase. Again, love you both. But when in the airplane PIC seat you are only a pilot for that moment.

    • What are you talking about, a class action lawsuit???Yeah cause you know we don’t already have enough problems with GA – adding a precedent of class action lawsuits is just what we need. And you think our insurance is bad now, what do you think would happen if that brilliant idea were to take hold…
      What about the speeding driver that takes out a power line pole – do we do class action suit against that driver? Does anyone suggest that.. No.

  3. Scud running: If the airport were below minimums at the time of the crash, this sure sounds like the pilot was trying to stay low enough to maintain visual contact with the ground while on final approach. A really dangerous way to fly.

  4. I live in Northern Virginia and when I heard of this incident I wondered how on Earth does someone hit a power tower unless you’re really low? As a retired A&P I remember us saying about them “Pilots!!! ____ (fill in the blank)” after seeing damage done by the PIC.

  5. I, and I presume the FAA, would have more respect for the pilot if he just came out and admitted to his mistake. Blaming equipment is lame. Count your lucky stars that you survived and don’t have the guilt if your passenger had died.

    If you want to fly again, take a break, get trained again, pass your new check ride, but most importantly have a learning mindset.

    We all screw up but how we write the ending of the story matters, if we’re still alive.

  6. I regularly fly with an experienced IFR pilot in his similar Mooney. He’s older than this pilot and aside from some early instructing all of his flying has been either personal or done in the course of his professional pursuits. As a VFR pilot, it’s a gift to fly with my friend because the varied weather can simply be enjoyed and discussed, knowing we’re never going to enter into the kind of faulty decision-making that this crash apparently involved. My job is the online planning for dinner and transport at any of the likely diversions should it seem even slightly possible.

  7. I am glad these folks got out alive.
    But for efffs sake, this guy really makes general aviation look bad in an area where all of the GA airports are under siege. We all have to realize we can ruin the whole thing for everyone with just one national-news event like this fiasco.
    The DC area is sooo GA-unfriendly, the land around there in Gaithersburg is soooo valuable, and there is sooo much posturing in Montgomery County, MD that this whole event is just like bringing a Zippo to a dynamite factory for all of the people who advocate getting rid of the airport and others locally.

    I know where those power lines are, and in ten seconds I realized this was a horrible approach since the pylons aren’t all that tall and he got snagged far from the threshold. If we give him the benefit of the doubt that had LPV, the mins for RNAV 14 at KGAI are 269ft above. To hit a 100 foot tower 1.25 mi away is absurd.

    All of the DC-area GA airports are under threat, mostly by encroachment of people that build close by 50 (or 100 in the case of CGS) years after the airport was built, and then scream 24×7 about the noise and safety concerns. GAI is owned by a Mont. county authority who’s main purpose is to manage the county golf courses (they’re great, BTW), so nobody in the local government knows what GA is, and are looking for any excuse to restrict or choke out use of the facility.

    It’s not just your life you’re gambling with this unbelievably bad airmanship , you can kill off the GA community when you do this stuff.