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On April 8, 2008, about 2123 Pacific daylight time, a Cirrus SR22, N868PC, was destroyed after impacting mountainous terrain in the San Bernardino National Forest while maneuvering, about 9 nautical miles (nm) west of the Big Bear City Airport (L35), Big Bear City, California. The private pilot, sole occupant and registered owner of the airplane, was killed. Instrument meteorological conditions existed in the area at the time of the accident. The personal flight was conducted in accordance with 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and no flight plan had been filed. The airplane departed the Flabob Airport (RIR), Riverside, California, about 2114, with its planned destination being L35.
A family member reported that the pilot made the 32 nm flight from RIR to L35 on a regular basis, primarily for commuting home from his business. A review of the pilot's personal logbook revealed that he had made 22 flights into L35 in the 60 days preceding the accident.
According to air traffic control personnel, the pilot reported his departure from RIR and requested visual flight rules (VFR) advisories to L35. The controller issued one traffic advisory to N868PC after the initial contact. A short time later the controller advised the pilot that no traffic was observed between him and L35. The controller then terminated VFR services when the flight was about 12 miles west of L35.
When the flight failed to arrive at its destination, a concerned family member contacted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Search and rescue operations commenced the following morning, which resulted in the airplane being located about 9 miles west of L35 at about the 8,400 foot level in mountainous terrain.
A review of FAA airman records revealed that the 52-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, and instrument airplane ratings. A review of the pilot's personal logbook indicated that he had accumulated 2,159 hours of flight time, with 54 hours in the preceding 90 days, 34 hours in the last 30 days, and 1 hour in the preceding 24 hours. The pilot purchased the airplane new in 2003, and completed the Cirrus Factory Training Course on August 8, 2003.
The pilot held a second-class medical certificate issued October 24, 2007, with a restriction that stated, "Holder shall possess glasses that correct for near vision."
The 2003-model Cirrus SR22 (serial number 0614), was a single-engine, low wing airplane of predominantly composite (fiberglass) construction. The airplane came equipped from the factory with an Avidyne EXP5000 primary flight display (PFD), an Avidyne EX5000C multi-function flight display (MFD), an S-TEC 55X autopilot, and Engine Monitoring. According to maintenance records, the airplane was retro fitted with XM Weather and Radio during the airplane's October 20, 2006, annual inspection. The airplane was also equipped with a Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS).
The airplane was powered by a Continental Motors IO-550-N (7) fuel-injected engine (serial number 687461), and was equipped with a 3-blade, constant speed Hartzell propeller.
The airplane's most recent annual inspection was performed on December 1, 2007, at a total time since new of 1,839.2 hours. The airplane underwent a 50-hour inspection on the morning of the accident at a total time of 1,885.4 hours. The airplane's last altimeter and static system check was performed on November 8, 2007.
At 2050, the L35 Aviation Weather Observing System (AWOS), reported wind 240 degrees at 9 knots, gusting to 18 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, broken clouds at 1,600 feet, broken clouds at 2,100 feet, temperature 0 degrees Celsius, dew point -3 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.80 inches of Mercury.
At 2110, just prior to the flight's departure from RIR, the L35 AWOS reported wind 230 degrees at 12 knots, gusting to 19 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, broken clouds at 800 feet, broken clouds at 1,500 feet, broken clouds at 2,100 feet, temperature 0 degrees Celsius, dew point -3 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.79 inches of Mercury.
At 2130, the L35 weather reporting system reported wind 240 degrees at 8 knots, gusting to 19 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, scattered clouds at 800 feet, scattered clouds at 1,300 feet, temperature 0 degrees Celsius, dew point -3 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.79 inches of Mercury.
As part of the Aviation Area Forecast (FA), Airmets Sierra and Tango, both encompassing the area of the accident site, were issued by the Aviation Weather Center (AWC), Kansas City, Missouri, at 1945, and valid until 0200, April 9th. Airmet Sierra indicated mountains occasionally obscured by clouds and precipitation. Airmet Tango indicated the presence of turbulence and low level wind shear.
A Senior Safety Board meteorologist supplied the IIC with Geostationary Operations Environmental Satellite-11 (GEOS-11) data plots. Both plots are of infrared (band 4) data centered on the accident location for the nominal times of 2100 and 2130. The visible satellite and infrared imagery indicated that a band of low stratiform clouds with a second layer of higher cumulus clouds extended over the last known position.
According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, Department of Astronomical Applications, the phase of the moon was waning crescent (not seen anytime before midnight) with 10% of the moon's visible disk illuminated. Moonrise was at 0840 on the following day.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) performed an on-scene documentation of the wreckage on April 10, 2008.
The accident site was located in rugged, remote mountainous terrain, about 9 nautical miles west of L35 at an elevation of 8,344 feet mean sea level (msl), and 770 feet west of the summit of Baker Peak, elevation 8,535 feet msl. An onsite examination revealed that the first impact signatures were evidenced by the fresh topping of a tree about 60 feet high, which was located 625 feet west of the main wreckage. Additional tree impact signatures were observed as the airplane descended along the energy path, which was oriented on a magnetic heading of 055 degrees. The main wreckage was located on a north-facing slope of about 30 degrees, oriented on a magnetic heading of 045 degrees.
The airplane's fuselage was broken into several major portions, with the firewall, instrument panel, and a front seat located together, all of which exhibited thermal damage. A section of the airplane's floor, 3 seats, and the FS 222 bulkhead were located together, with no thermal damage noted. The empennage was observed separated from the airplane, while the vertical and horizontal stabilizers were intact and exhibited impact damage. The left outboard section of the wing remained intact and exhibited impact damage. The left and right ailerons and the left and right flaps were separated from the wing and exhibited impact damage.
An examination of the airplane's flight controls revealed that the aileron control cable was separated in multiple locations. Additionally, both rudder control cables and both elevator control cables remained attached to their respective bellcranks and separated from their respective turnbuckles. All separations were consistent with tension overload.
The airplane's engine was not located during the initial on-scene documentation of the wreckage. However, during the recovery operation, which was postponed for several days due to inclement weather, the engine was located about 1,950 feet down slope and north of the main wreckage.
The propeller assembly was observed separated from the engine and located within the main wreckage. The propeller spinner was crushed at the tip and exhibited torsional and impact damage. The propeller blades exhibited "S"-bending, chordwise scratching, and trailing edge gouges.
The airplane's Cirrus Airframe Parachute System's (CAPS) parachute was located completely out of the deployment bag. The suspension lines ran uphill around a tree and returned downhill to the parachute, which was lying on the ground near the empennage. The CAPS safety pin was located in the vicinity of the main wreckage. The activation handle was in the stowed position and the activation cable housing was partially missing. The rocket motor was located in a tree about 30 to 40 feet east of the main wreckage. The rocket motor was visually examined by a Cirrus representative on site and determined to be expended.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The San Bernardino County Office of the Medical Examiner, San Bernardino, California, performed an autopsy of the pilot on April 11, 2008. The cause of death was attributed to "Massive blunt force injuries, rapid."
The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot. Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for volatiles and tested drugs. The carbon monoxide and cyanide tests were not performed.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Under the supervision of the IIC, a postaccident examination of the airframe and engine was conducted on April 18, 2008. With the exception of the airplane's left magneto, which would not spark, the examination revealed no preimpact engine or airframe anomalies, which would have precluded normal operation. The left magneto was subsequently bench tested under the supervision of the IIC at the facilities of Aircraft Magneto, Seattle, Washington. The bench test revealed no anomalies with the left magneto. A copy of the test results is included in this report.
The airplane's MFD, which contained the engine monitoring data card, was destroyed by thermal and impact damage. No data was recovered from the component. The airplane's PFD was retained for further examination by the Safety Board Vehicle Recorders Laboratory, Washington, DC.
Data was successfully recovered from the PFD and plotted. Data plots revealed that the altitude bug was set to 8,400 feet for the duration of the flight until about the last 20 seconds where the data indicates lower values. Additionally, the data indicates the magnetic heading bug was set to 51 degrees at approximately 21:22:12 and then to 66 degrees at approximately 21:23:17. The preliminary data plots ends at 21:23:19. The preliminary data plots also indicate a steady recorded altitude of 8,400 feet for about the last 3 minutes of the flight.