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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN15LA069
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 05, 2014 in Fort Collins, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/05/2015
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR20, registration: N407ND
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The student pilot was conducting a solo flight in a Cirrus SR20 airplane at an uncontrolled airport. An airport video showed the student attempting to land on a runway about 30 seconds after the departure of a Sikorsky UH-60 helicopter. The student pilot reported that he was aware of the helicopter and that he attempted to land long. However, just before touchdown, the airplane encountered the wake turbulence of the helicopter and then entered an uncommanded steep left bank. The student attempted to counter the left bank and go around, but he was unable to maintain airplane control. The airplane subsequently impacted left of the runway and cartwheeled.
Current Federal Aviation Administration pilot guidance, including the Airman’s Information Manual and an advisory circular on aircraft wake turbulence, does not recommend separation criteria for a small airplane following a helicopter. It is likely that the student pilot did not comprehend the significance of the wake turbulence that the helicopter would generate during departure.



The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The student pilot’s failure to comprehend the significance of the wake turbulence that a preceding helicopter would generate during departure, which resulted in a loss of airplane control during landing. Contributing to the accident was the lack of Federal Aviation Administration wake turbulence separation criteria for a small airplane following a helicopter.