About 90 minutes before the flight, the pilot received a preflight weather briefing, which included an advisory for moderate icing between the freezing level (expected to be at or below 10,000 feet mean sea level and 22,000 feet msl.)
The pilot reported that the Cirrus SR22 encountered instrument meteorological conditions with light icing accumulation about 45 minutes into the flight.
He advised an air traffic controller of the situation when the airplane was operating about 15,900 feet msl, however, before he had decided on an alternate route of flight, the icing conditions worsened, and the plane was unable to maintain altitude.
The controller noted that this was the first icing report in that vicinity, although there had been earlier reports of light to moderate icing about 50 miles west of the airplane’s position.
Unsure of the height of the cloud bases in relation to the mountainous terrain below the airplane’s flightpath, the pilot chose to deploy the parachute system. The airplane hit a mountainside near Gunnison, Colo., in about 10 feet of snow at an elevation of 11,000 feet msl.
Available weather data at the time of the accident indicated that the freezing level was about 10,000 feet msl with clouds tops about 18,000 feet msl around the incident site.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s improper decision to initiate the flight into an area with forecast icing conditions, which resulted in an encounter with in-flight icing conditions that prevented the airplane from being able to maintain altitude.
NTSB Identification: CEN14IA139
This February 2014 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.