After Lift-Off, The Airplane’s Wings Wobbled As It Climbed

Location: Holly Ridge, NC Accident Number: ERA22FA024
Date & Time: October 21, 2021, 16:31 Local Registration: N3933H
Aircraft: Mooney M20J Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On October 21, 2021, at 1631 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20J, N3933H, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at Holly Ridge/Topsail Island Airport (N21), Holly Ridge, North Carolina. The commercial pilot and one passenger were fatally injured, one passenger was seriously injured, and one passenger received minor injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to preliminary radar data obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot and the front seat passenger completed a 30-minute local flight at 1603. Then, two additional passengers boarded the airplane before the accident flight departed.

Preliminary review of a video recorded by a witness at N21 revealed the airplane started its takeoff roll for the accident flight on the 3,591-ft-long grass runway. After lift-off, the airplane’s wings wobbled as it climbed, turned left and subsequently descended into a wooded area about two-thirds down the runway. A video recorded by a surviving passenger revealed that the engine continued to operate throughout the accident sequence and sounds consistent with a stall warning horn before impact.

The airplane came to rest on a heading of 081°; the empennage was resting against a tree with the nose vertically into the ground. The left wing was fractured at the wing root and separated from the fuselage, laying about 12 ft to the right, with the left-wing tip and aileron separated from the main wing and laying about 40 ft to the east of the main wreckage.

All engine structural components, fuselage and flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident site. The right wing and fuel tank remained attached to the fuselage and contained about 15 gallons of fuel. The left wing fuel tank was breached.

Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit for the right wing and fuselage. Flight control continuity for the left wing was confirmed from the separation point of the wing to the aileron and flap.

The engine was partially disassembled to facilitate the examination. The propeller was cut from the engine to allow for engine rotation. The crankshaft was rotated by turning the propeller spinner and continuity of the crankshaft to the rear gears and to the valve train was observed. Compression and suction were attained from all four cylinders. The engine driven fuel pump and fuel separator was disassembled, and fuel was observed in both components.

Initial review of maintenance records revealed that the airplane’s most recent annual inspection was last conducted on February 1, 2021.

According to FAA airman records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane. He received a BasicMed certificate on March 19, 2020. According to the pilot’s flight logbook, he had accumulated 2,375 hours of total time with 2,311 hours logged as pilot-in-command as of September 19, 2021.

The airplane was retained for further examination.