This March 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 SR22. Injuries: None. Location: Gaithersburg, Md. Aircraft damage: Substantial
What reportedly happened: The pilot, who had logged 327 hours, including 161 in a Cirrus, had about seven hours of actual instrument time and 63 hours simulated instrument experience. Weather at the time of the accident included a visibility of two miles and overcast clouds at 400 feet. The airplane took off on an IFR flight. As the Cirrus entered clouds about 700 to 1,000 feet MSL, the passenger door opened two to three inches, allowing rain, cold air, and increased noise to enter the cockpit. The pilot said he became spatially disoriented and that the airplane subsequently stalled and started to spin. The pilot activated the Cirrus Airplane Parachute System and the plane descended toward the ground. The left wing hit a parked vehicle and the airplane came to rest on a road about half mile west of the airport. The airplane’s left wing was fractured and the empennage was separated just forward of the horizontal stabilizer.
Examination of the airplane, which included the passenger door locking mechanism, did not reveal any mechanical anomalies.
Probable cause: The pilot’s spatial disorientation after the passenger door opened during flight in instrument meteorological conditions. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to properly secure the door latch.
For more information: NTSB.gov