NTSB Identification: WPR11FA354
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, July 29, 2011 in Fredonia, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/28/2012
Aircraft: CIRRUS SR20, registration: N365DP
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The airplane collided with terrain while maneuvering in dark night visual meteorological conditions while on the third leg of a 1,665 nautical mile (nm) cross-country flight. The airplane, with the pilot/owner and a pilot-rated passenger aboard, had departed the east coast in the morning and had been en route for about 16 hours. It could not be determined which of the two pilots was manipulating the flight controls at the time of the accident. The planned length of the last leg of the flight was 660 nm, which was about equal to the airplane’s calculated maximum range for a no wind condition with a 45 minute reserve. Radar data revealed that during the last few minutes of the flight, the airplane changed course several times toward different nearby airports. These heading excursions were most likely due to a decision by the pilots to divert to an alternate airport after realizing that the destination airport could possibly be beyond the current range of the airplane. The last radar return was about 0.1 nm south of the accident site, which was located in a remote, sparsely populated area. Examination of the accident site revealed signatures, including tree strikes and wreckage distribution, consistent with controlled flight into terrain. Postaccident examination of the engine and airframe revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. It is likely that the pilots lost situational awareness and failed to maintain terrain clearance. Conditions conducive to controlled flight into terrain included fatigue due to the pilots’ long duty day, the dark night light condition, the lack of ground lighting in the region, and the fact that neither pilot was instrument rated.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The non-instrument-rated pilots’ loss of situational awareness during a dark night flight over a remote area, which resulted in their failure to maintain an altitude sufficient to ensure adequate terrain clearnance. Contributing to the accident was the pilots’ fatigue due to their long duty day.

Full narrative available

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