This January 2009 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 SR20. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Menomonie, Wis. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot received his instrument rating about a month before the accident. He intended to depart on an IFR flight plan at night. He had logged about 440 hours, including 13.2 hours in a Cirrus SR22 as part of the Cirrus Factory Transition Training VFR course.
The pilot had logged 19 hours of actual instrument flight and 16 hours of night flight since November 2008. He was familiar with the route of flight, having made the round trip twice at night earlier in the month.
During the weather briefing, the pilot was advised that conditions would be conducive for icing with increasing cloud cover. The airplane was not certified for flight into known icing conditions. The pilot took off and climbed to 6,000 feet MSL, but about an hour after departure he requested 7,000 feet to get above the cloud tops. He was cleared to descend to 4,000 feet MSL and instructed to fly direct to the initial approach fix for the destination airport. The airplane encountered IMC during descent.
ATC asked the pilot if the airplane was picking up ice, and the pilot reported that it was not. Radar track data indicated that the airplane started a right turn, and about one minute later was lost from radar contact. The cloud bases were at 1,100 feet AGL near the crash site. Witnesses nearby reported hearing the engine running at a high power setting.
The inspection of the airplane and engine did not reveal any pre-impact anomalies. The airplane’s parachute system was not deployed, and the parachutes’ safety pin with the red colored “Remove Before Flight” tag was found in the activation handle, still in the handle holder. The preflight checklist calls for the safety pin to be removed prior to flight.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane while flying at night in instrument meteorological conditions.
For more information: NTSB.gov