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On November 3, 2002, approximately 1225 mountain standard time (MST), a Cirrus Design Corporation. SR20, single-engine airplane, N566T, was destroyed after impacting terrain while maneuvering near Las Vegas, New Mexico. The non-instrument rated private pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to the pilot and another private individual and was operated by the pilot. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The cross-country flight departed Renner Field (GLD), in Goodland, Kansas, approximately 1015 central standard time, and was destined for Double Eagle II Airport (AEG), in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
During a telephone interview with a relative of the pilot, the relative stated the pilot would typically depart from his private airstrip, which was located at the pilot's residence, at sunrise. On the night prior to the accident, the pilot and relative checked the weather on the computer using Direct User Access Terminal (DUATS), and the pilot also contacted flight service for any temporary flight restrictions along the planned route of flight. The pilot's planned route of flight was the following: depart North Dakota, fuel stop in Pierre, South Dakota, fuel stop in Goodland, Kansas, and then to AEG (the accident flight was the second time the pilot had flown the planned route). On the morning of the accident, at 1115 MST, the pilot contacted the relative and reported he was 136 miles from AEG and the weather was beautiful. The relative stated the pilot would typically fly the airplane at a cruise speed of 150 knots and at an altitude of 1,000 feet agl.
A fixed base operator (FBO) refueler, located at Renner Field, stated the accident airplane landed approximately 1050. The refueler topped off both fuel tanks and talked with the pilot about the airplane. The pilot departed at 1115. According to the refueler, the FBO was equipped with a computer weather reporting station, and prior to departing, the pilot had not checked the weather on the computer.
An employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, Las Vegas, New Mexico, reported the 9,000 acre wildlife refuge was open to the public on Sundays in November. The public was able to tour the refuge on a 4.5-mile one-way auto tour loop road to view the migratory bird activity. On the morning of the accident, between 0820 and 0840, the weather was clear; however, a front was coming in from the east. From 0900 until 1045, the employee logged four vehicle tours with a total of 11 individuals entering the refuge. The employee and a refuge volunteer discussed that the weather was not good for bird viewing and thought the front would possibly blow over. Between 1100 and 1115, the volunteer drove on the loop road, and at this time, the "fog was heavy." Approximately 1330, the employee closed the front entrance gate and made a final drive through the loop road. At that time, the employee reported the "fog was very heavy and visibility was very poor, probably no more than 30 [meters], and [the employee] remembered driving through pockets of heavier fog." While driving west on the loop road near the exit, the employee discovered a portion of the airplane wreckage on the side of the road.
The refuge volunteer reported the weather was partly to mostly cloudy most of the morning. By 1100, [the sky] had become overcast, and fog was forming over the refuge lakes and ponds. By 1130, the refuge volunteer stated the visibility was poor. The volunteer took his final ride on the loop road and reported the fog had thickened and visibility had become too poor for waterbird observation and identification.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. The private pilot was issued a third class medical certificate on November 13, 2000, with the limitation, "holder must wear corrective lenses for distant vision and possess for near vision while exercising the privileges of his airman certificate." The pilot's most recent biennial flight review was completed on January 8, 2001. According to the logbook, the pilot was originally issued his private pilot certificate in 1950.
A review of the private pilot's logbook revealed the private pilot had accumulated approximately 1884 hours total flight time, of which 82 hours were in the accident airplane. The date of the last recorded entry in the logbook was May 18, 2002, which was a flight recorded as "Albuquerque - Home, stops at KS and Pierre SD." On January 8, 2001, the pilot completed the New-Owner Training for the Cirrus SR20 (a program sponsored by Cirrus Design Corp.). The course instruction is provided by contract flight instructors.
The 2000-model Cirrus Design Corp. SR-20 airplane, serial number 1109, was a low-wing, fixed tri-cycle landing gear, primarily composite, and monocoque design airplane. The airplane was powered by a six cylinder, horizontally opposed, air-cooled, fuel injected Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) IO-360-ES-6 engine (serial number 357283), rated at 200 horsepower. The airplane was equipped with a three-blade Hartzell constant speed, aluminum alloy propeller. The airplane was configured to carry four occupants.
The airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate on December 29, 2000, and was certificated for normal category operations. The airplane was registered to the owner on February 22, 2001. At the time of the accident, the airplane and engine had accumulated a total time of 276.8 hours.
According to the FAA approved Cirrus Design SR20 Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH), the airplane uses conventional flight controls for the ailerons, elevator and rudder. The control surfaces are pilot controlled through either of the two single-handed side control yokes. The flight control system contains a combination of push rods, cables, and bell cranks for the control of the surfaces.
At 1153, the LVS Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) station, located 8.1 miles north of the accident site, reported the wind from 070 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling overcast at 300 feet agl, temperature 32 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 29 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.19 inches of Mercury.
At 1253, the LVS ASOS station reported the wind from 090 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling overcast at 500 feet agl, temperature 34 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 29 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.19 inches of Mercury.
At 1239, a pilot report (PIREP) was submitted by a Piper PA-28 aircraft on a flight from Dalhart (DHT), Texas, to Sante Fe (SAF), New Mexico, operating an altitude of 10,500 feet. The location of the aircraft at the time of the submission was unknown. The PIREP reported the sky was overcast with the layer tops at 10,000 feet msl, the overcast layer began 20 nautical miles west of DHT to 25 nautical miles southeast of SAF, and no turbulence.
The National Weather Service, in Kansas City, Missouri, issued AIRMET Sierra Update 3, on November 3, 2002, at 1020, which was valid until 1400, on November 3, 2002. The AIRMET stated the following, "occasional ceiling below 1,000 feet, visibility below 3 miles in mist, fog. Conditions ending [1200 to 1300]. Mountains occasionally obscured clouds, mist, fog. Conditions ending [1300 to 1400]." There were no SIGMETs or Convective SIGMETs in effect for the time and area of the accident.
A written statement was provided by a pilot who was operating a Cirrus SR22 airplane over LVS at 1500, at an altitude of 9,500 feet msl. According to the pilot, as he approached LVS from the southwest, he began to see what appeared to be a fairly thin layer of clouds. In order to maintain clearance over the top of the cloud layer, the pilot initiated a climb. At one point during the climb, the airplane entered a cloud and rime ice accumulated on the windscreen, landing gear struts, and [wing] leading edges. He stated he was in the cloud for approximately 10 seconds, and the accumulation of ice was "quite fast."
According to an FAA inspector, who responded to the accident site, the pilot did not receive a formal weather briefing from an FAA flight service station on the day of the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a field in the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge approximately 8.1 miles south of the Las Vegas Municipal Airport (LVS). The global positioning system (GPS) coordinates recorded at the accident site were north latitude 35 degrees 31.44 minutes and west longitude 105 degrees 10.02 minutes at an elevation of 6,540 feet. The wreckage distribution path measured approximately 1,200 feet in length on a measured magnetic heading of 280 degrees. The initial ground scar markings were consistent with the right wing tip and the three landing gears. White paint transfer was found on the dirt in the ground scar. A portion of the left wing skin came to rest on the left side of the debris field approximately 150 feet from the initial ground scar. The main wreckage, which consisted of the fuselage, portions of empennage, and the main wing spar, came to rest twisted in a barbed wire fence and on a gravel road approximately 900 feet from the ground scar. Various components and composite structure were fragmented and scattered in the debris field. The engine came to rest approximately 1,100 feet from the initial ground scar. The battery and several engine accessories came to rest approximately 1,200 feet from the ground scar. The three-bladed propeller assembly, which was separated from the engine, was located to the right (north) of the debris field in a grassy field adjacent to the gravel road.
The right and left wing skins were fragmented and located in the debris field. The main wing spar, located with the main wreckage, was fractured in two places; outboard of the spherical bearing attach point, and approximately five feet from the wing tip. The aft wing spar was fractured and fragmented in several places. Both fuel cells, located in the right and left wings, were fragmented and destroyed. The right and left ailerons and flaps were separated from their respective attach points and located in the debris field. According to the manufacturer, based on the position of the flap switch shaft, the flaps were in the retracted position. The main landing gear were separated from their respective attach points and located in the debris field. Flight control continuity was not established to the flight control surfaces.
The right horizontal stabilizer was intact. The right elevator remained attached to the torque tube and was bent downward at the center hinge attach point. The left horizontal stabilizer's skin was debonded from the forward and aft spar. The left forward spar was fractured, and the aft spar was disbonded. The vertical stabilizer was intact and displayed gouges and scratches, and the rudder was separated and located in the debris field.
The left and right composite fuselage halves were debonded at the centerline. The top of the fuselage, above the pilots seats, was fragmented and located in the debris field. The fuselage floor was fragmented, and the cabin rollover structure was separated from the fuselage halves. The right and left doors were intact, but separated from the fuselage. The door pins were found engaged, and the door handles were in the latched position. The left and right forward seats were separated from the fuselage floor. The left bottom seat core was crushed on the left front corner, and the right bottom seat core displayed minor crush damage relative to the left core. The instrument panel was fragmented and five instruments were separated from their mounting structure. The attitude indicator, the directional gyro, and the vertical speed indicator were destroyed. The vacuum gauge was destroyed. The altimeter displayed an altitude of 7,600 feet and the Kollsman Window was set at 30.20 inches of Mercury. The throttle and mixture controls were found in the full forward position. The left control yoke was separated, and the right control yoke was found intact.
The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) parachute package was found adjacent to the main wreckage. The parachute package was intact, and the parachute was stowed. The CAPS rocket was found separated from the igniter base and had not been fired.
The engine, which was separated from the airframe, tumbled along the ground prior to coming to rest in a grass field. All of the engine accessories were separated from the engine and were located in the debris field. The number five cylinder was damaged, and the cylinder head was partially separated from the crankcase. Puncture holes were found in the oil sump. The oil filter was separated and crushed. The oil filter was clear of debris and metal contamination. The crankshaft was separated near the crankcase halves, and the fracture displayed 45-degree shear lips. The crankshaft was rotated manually through the accessory drive gears, and continuity was established to the cylinders, valve train, and the accessory gears. Both magnetos were rotated by hand, and spark was noted on all terminals. The sparks plugs were removed, and according to the engine manufacturer representative, the spark plug electrodes displayed moderate wear and light deposits. The vacuum pump drive was separated and the pump housing displayed damage. The vacuum pump cover was removed, and the vanes were intact, and the pump rotor was fractured. The exhaust and intake system was separated and crushed.
The three-bladed propeller hub remained intact and attached to the fractured crankshaft flange. The propeller hub dome was fractured and the pitch change tube was bent. One blade was curled aft, displayed leading edge gouging, and chordwise scratching was noted near the blade tip. One blade was bent approximately 45 degrees in the direction of rotation and was twisted toward the non-cambered side near the blade shank. One blade was twisted toward the direction of rotation and twisted toward the cambered side near the blade tip.
An autopsy was performed by the University of New Mexico, Office of the Medical Investigator, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on November 4, 2002, and specimens were retained for toxicological analysis by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute's (CAMI) Forensic and Accident Research Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to the Chief Medical Investigator, the cause of death for the pilot was multiple blunt force injuries due to a high speed aircraft crash.
According to CAMI, the pilot's toxicological tests were negative for alcohol, and an unspecified amount of Diphenhydramine was detected in the kidney and liver. The FAA Regional Flight Surgeon stated, "Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine used in the treatment of allergic symptoms. It can cause significant drowsiness and is not recommended for use while performing safety-sensitive activities."
TEST AND RESEARCH
On March 3, 2003, a Garmin GNS 430 GPS, which was installed in the airplane, was examined by the manufacturer for data extraction. According to Garmin, no data was available from the unit; "all Garmin-panel mounted avionics do not store data once power is disconnected from the unit." In addition, the unit sustained damaged during the accident.
The airplane was released to the owner's representative on July 24, 2003.