“Flight Appeared To Be Losing Altitude Rapidly And (Controller) Advised The Pilot To Level The Airplane’s Wings”

Location: Chester, AR Accident Number: CEN20LA379
Date & Time: 09/04/2020, 2055 CDT Registration: N733CD
Aircraft: Cirrus SR22 Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation – Personal

HISTORY OF FLIGHT: On September 4, 2020, about 2055 central daylight time, a Cirrus SR22 airplane, N733CD, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Chester, Arkansas. The private pilot and three passengers sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to initial information, the accident pilot called his flight instructor/airplane mechanic at the Muskogee-Davis Regional Airport (MKO), near Muskogee, Oklahoma, on September 4, 2020, about 1900, and advised the mechanic that he intended to fly to North Carolina. The mechanic advised the pilot to leave in the morning. Fueling records showed the accident airplane was refueled about 1949, with 36.41 gallons of 100 low lead aviation gasoline.

According to initial radar data, the airplane departed from MKO about 2027. The airplane flew eastward, had climbed  up through 8,500 ft, and the pilot established radio communication with an air traffic controller. The pilot was asked by the controller where the flight was destined and the pilot said it was Pickens County Airport, near Pickens, South Carolina. The airplane was radar-identified, was issued depicted weather, and the controller suggested a 20° right turn for the weather. The airplane flew about 4 four miles on this heading and then reversed course. The flight was queried on its heading and the pilot replied that they were returning to MKO. The airplane was observed on a northwest heading by the controller who asked the pilot if he still intended to return to MKO, and advised the pilot that the airplane appeared to be on a heading of 340°. The pilot replied that the airplane had been caught by the wind and he was correcting its course. However, the airplane turned northeast and began descending. The controller issued the flight a 20° left turn and no response was received in reference to that turn. The controller then advised the flight to turn left heading 270°. The pilot acknowledged the 270° heading. The airplane continued to descend and turn right. The controller then advised that the flight appeared to be losing altitude rapidly and advised the pilot to level the airplane’s wings, and fly southbound. The controller subsequently queried the flight multiple times, advised that radar contact was lost, and no response was received.

An alert notice was issued, a search conducted, and the wreckage was found in wooded terrain on September 5, 2020.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION: The 31-year-old pilot reported that he had accumulated 11 hours of total flight time and 11 hours of flight in last six months before his last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) examination for a third-class medical certificate dated November 29, 2017, issued with no limitations. The pilot was given a notice of disapproval after his initial attempt at a private pilot examination on October 27, 2019. The pilot’s areas of deficiency were in preflight preparation, operation of systems, which included knowledge of constant speed propellers and knowledge of instruments associated with the pitot and vacuum systems. The pilot successfully passed the retesting for his private pilot certificate on November 3, 2019.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION: According to its website, Cirrus Embark is a program designed exclusively for new owners of pre-owned Cirrus aircraft. The program includes complimentary training to address the specific needs of pilots and owners of pre-owned Cirrus aircraft. The program consists of a maximum of 3 full days of flight training. The pilot requested and was granted this training program on January 13, 2020. According to initial information, the pilot accumulated about 100 to 120 hours of total time at the time of his application. Direct owners or designated pilots of pre-owned Cirrus aircraft must enroll into Cirrus Embark within 30 days of aircraft delivery.

Once enrolled into the program, the owner or designated pilot must complete the training within 60 days. According to Cirrus training records, the pilot completed all the flight training lessons. However, he did not complete all the online self-study lessons. The accident airplane was a four-place, single engine, low-wing airplane. An FAA bill of sale document showed the airplane was sold to the accident pilot on January 4, 2020. According to copies of airplane logbook entries, an annual inspection was completed on June 2, 2020 and the airplane accumulated 2,053.8 hours of total time at the time of that inspection. The airplane was equipped with an ARNAV Systems, Inc ICDS (integrated cockpit display system) 2000 unit, which is a moving map multifunction display that also displays engine data.

The airplane was fitted with a Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) advertised by the airplane manufacturer to recover the airplane and its occupants to the ground in the event of an in-flight emergency. The CAPS contains a parachute (within a deployment bag) located within a fiberglass CAPS enclosure compartment, a solid-propellant rocket contained within a launch tube to deploy the parachute, a pick-up collar assembly and attached Teflon-coated steel cable lanyard and incremental bridle, a rocket activation system that consisted of an activation T-handle, an activation cable, and a rocket igniter, and a harness assembly which attached the parachute to the fuselage.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION: The airplane impacted wooded terrain about 22 miles north of the Fort Smith  Regional Airport, Fort Smith, Arkansas. An FAA inspector examined and documented the wreckage site. A section of upper tree canopy exhibited signs consistent with blighting. The wreckage path exhibited a descending path, about 30° down, through the woods from the upper canopy to the engine and cabin impact site had a heading of about 220°. The debris field, which started about the area of blighting and continued southwest beyond the cabin and engine impact area was consistent with this heading as well. Charring and discoloration consistent with a small ground fire was present on items in the impact area. The propeller was found separated from the engine, and a propeller blade was separated just outboard of its hub. The remaining two blades exhibited leading edge nicks and gouges. A portion of the CAPS parachute was strewn out in the debris field northeast of the impact area and the remainder of the CAPS parachute was observed in its deployment bag. The CAPS rocket was found in a ravine about 200 ft north of the impact site. Components of the wings, engine, empennage, and fuselage were identified at the accident site. The cockpit instrumentation was fragmented, and no useful information was able to be collected from them. However, non-volatile memory installed in the ICDS unit has been retained to see if it contains data in reference to the accident flight.

The airplane and engine were recovered and have been retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov