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Tue, Nov 29, 2022

Two Rescued from Mooney Trapped in Maryland Powerlines

Incident Under Investigation

Two people were rescued in the wee hours of Monday, 28 November 2022 from a Mooney M20J trapped in live powerlines near Gaithersburg, Maryland.

In addition to serious but non-life-threatening injuries, the individuals—identified by Maryland State Police as pilot Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, D.C., and passenger Janet Williams, 66, of Marrero, Louisiana—suffered hypothermia during the six-hours they remained trapped in the badly damaged aircraft following its impact with a powerline tower in the vicinity of Montgomery County Airpark (GAI).

The Mooney M20J (N201RF) departed White Plains, New York’s Westchester County Airport (HPN) on Sunday, 27 November 2022 at 15:01 EST bound for GAI. At approximately 17:40 EST—for reasons as of yet unknown and under investigation—the aircraft struck a powerline tower one-nautical-mile northeast of the threshold of GAI’s runway 14, becoming entangled in high-tension lines some one-hundred-feet above the ground.

To stabilize the suspended aircraft and facilitate rescue operations, workmen were obliged to disconnect the powerlines. Thereafter, at 00:16 EST on Monday, 28 November, utility workers and first-responders secured N201RF to the powerline tower. The first of the aircraft’s occupants was extracted at 00:25 EST.

Local power utility Pepco reported damage resultant of the accident and subsequent rescue effort left more than 120,000 of its customers in northern Montgomery County without electric service.

Owing to the power outage’s impact on safety and school operations, the Montgomery County Public School system opted late Sunday night (27 November) to close its schools and offices Monday.

The incident remains under investigation by the FAA, the NTSB, and local officials.

The Mooney M20 is a family of single-engine, piston-powered, four-seat, propeller-driven, low-wing, tricycle-undercarriage airplanes manufactured by the Mooney International Corporation between 1955 and 2019. The M20 was Al Mooney’s twentieth design and—with more than 11,000 specimens having been produced—his most successful. M20 family aircraft boast excellent performance, with latter models featuring cruise-speeds of 242-knots and Vso stall-speeds as low as 53-knots. In addition to their swiftness, M20 variants have an excellent safety record and are generally considered eminently reliable. In 2017, pilot Brian Lloyd flew his Mooney M20K-231 around the world in observation of the 80th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s 1937 attempted global circumnavigation. Lloyd followed a route similar to that taken by Earhart—albeit to a happier conclusion.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov, www.mooney.com/

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