Low-level aerobatics kill two

Aircraft: Cirrus SR22. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Boynton Beach, Fla. Aircraft damage: Substantial

What reportedly happened: Both people on board the Cirrus were pilots. At the time of the accident, the plane was returning from an airshow and flying in formation with two aerobatic airplanes.

The pilot of one of the aerobatic airplanes reported that shortly after the Cirrus crossed the border of an unpopulated wetland area at an altitude of approximately 29 feet AGL,  it pitched upward to an angle of about 30°, then rolled left, then began a rapid descent into the marsh from which it did not pull out.

Post-accident examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would preclude normal operation.

Flight data recorded by a device onboard the Cirrus, along with statements provided by witnesses, suggested that one of the pilots likely attempted to perform an aileron roll at low altitude. The Cirrus is not approved for aerobatic flight.

The investigation could not determine which of the pilots was physically manipulating the controls at the time of the accident, however, given the right seat pilot’s substantial previous flight experience, the provisions of the exclusive agreement under which he rented the accident airplane, and statements from witnesses affirming that the pilot had attempted the maneuver in the past, investigators determined that most likely the right seat pilot was acting as pilot-in-command at the time of the accident and was either manipulating the controls or directing the left seat pilot’s manipulation of the controls at the time.

Investigators determined that it is unlikely that activation of the ballistic recovery parachute system would have affected the outcome of the event. The system’s safety pin was found installed.

Additionally, based on observations of the airplane’s occupant restraint systems, recovered positions of the pilots’ remains, and pre-accident photographs recovered from an electronic device onboard the airplane, it is unlikely that the right seat pilot was wearing his shoulder restraint. It could not be determined if this apparent lack of upper body restraint may have inhibited the right seat pilot’s ability to control the airplane during the maneuver.

Probable cause: The right seat pilot’s decision to attempt a low-altitude aerobatic maneuver in a non-aerobatic airplane.

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA068

This November 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. Sarah A says

    This is the third incident report recently for a Cirrius aircraft that was purly the result of bad piloting. It seems that they are trying to corner the market on well to do stupid pilots. Then again in its day the V tail Bonanza had quite a poor safety record and was called among other things “The Fork Tailed Doctor Killer”.

    • Sarah A says

      Many glass cockpit systems have the ability to record flight data for post flight review. Probably intended as a teaching aid they do provide a limited sort of post crash data source although they most likely do not have the survivability of a true FDR. Even cars have such recorders these days tied into the iar bag system.

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