This March 2008 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.
Aircraft: Cirrus SR22. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Front Royal, Va. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot, who held an instrument rating, was co-owner of the airplane. The pilot flew 4.6 hours during the 30-day period preceding the accident. According to the pilot’s application for a medical certificate in October 2007, he had at least 180 hours. However, the his total experience in actual and simulated instrument meteorological conditions could not be determined.
On the night of the accident, the pilot and passenger departed from runway 27 on a night instrument flight rules flight in marginal visual meteorological conditions. Recorded weather about the time of the accident included a broken ceiling at 2,400 feet, with an overcast ceiling at 3,000 feet. Visibility was three miles in rain, and winds were reported from 340° at four knots. There was rising mountainous terrain west of the airport. According to the filed flight plan, the pilot’s first waypoint was located northeast of the airport. Recorded data from the airplane’s primary flight display showed that during controlled flight just prior to impact, the airplane was climbing and accelerating, reaching an altitude of approximately 2,200 feet MSL and an indicated airspeed of 140 knots. About six seconds before the end of the recording, the airplane began a steep descending turn to the left. The roll reached 95° left wing down and 27° nose down attitude. The airplane collided with the rising terrain, about four miles west of the airport, at an elevation of 1,200 MSL while on a southerly heading. There was no evidence of an attempt to activate the aircraft’s ballistic parachute.
Examination of the airplane, airplane systems, engine, and propeller did not reveal any pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from rising mountainous terrain, and his failure to turn toward his assigned course during initial climb. Contributing to the accident were the low ceiling, reduced visibility, dark night conditions, and rising mountainous terrain.
For more information: NTSB.gov.