This April 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: 1 Fatal. Location: Big Bear City, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: According to family members, the pilot made the 32 nautical mile flight on a regular basis, primarily for commuting home from his business. A review of the pilot’s logbook revealed that he had made 22 flights to the destination airport in the 60 days preceding the accident.
He was flying on a dark night when the airplane entered instrument meteorological weather conditions. The airplane’s wreckage was located in mountainous terrain at 8,344 feet MSL nine miles west of the destination airport.
Recorded flight parameter data from the electronic primary flight display revealed a steady recorded altitude of 8,400 feet for about the last three minutes of the flight. About 90 minutes prior to the accident, AIRMETS advising of mountains occasionally obscured by clouds and precipitation and the presence of turbulence and low-level wind-shear had been issued. Weather observations for the destination airport just prior to the airplane’s departure reported cloud ceilings at 8,400 feet and 7,600 feet MSL. In addition scattered clouds were reported at 7,600 feet and 8,100 feet MSL. Based on an analysis of satellite weather data and destination airport weather observations conducted by an NTSB meteorologist, investigators determined that the pilot likely encountered clouds and turbulence at his flight altitude and descended in order to maintain VFR flight.
The post-accident examination of the airframe, flight controls, engine assembly, and accessories revealed no pre-impact anomalies.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain altitude/clearance from mountainous terrain. Contributing to the accident were the mountainous terrain, the dark night condition, the turbulent wind condition, and the low clouds.
For more information: NTSB.gov