The instrument-rated pilot departed in the Cirrus SR22 with a reported cloud ceiling of 400 feet above ground level and 3 miles visibility.
A witness, who was about 0.3 nautical miles west of the departure end of the runway in Chesterfield, Mo., saw the SR22’s navigation lights for about three to five seconds as it traveled west. It appeared to be traveling at a high rate of speed and in a descent. He saw a fireball as the plane hit the trees and terrain.
He reported that the weather conditions were “very foggy” and that he could only see the Cirrus’s navigation lights due to the fog and dark light conditions.
Approach control radar data indicated that the airplane did not climb more than 200 feet above ground level before hitting the trees.
The examination of the wreckage debris field indicated that the airplane was in a shallow descent at impact. The pilot and a passenger were killed in the accident.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to establish and maintain a positive climb rate during the initial climb in night instrument meteorological conditions.
NTSB Identification: CEN13FA456
This August 2013 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.