CEN09FA146
CEN09FA146

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On January 30, 2009, at 2144 central standard time (all times cst), a Cirrus SR20, N495LV, was destroyed during impact with terrain about 5 miles north of Menomonie, Wisconsin. The private pilot, two passengers, and a dog received fatal injuries. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight departed Sheboygan County Memorial Airport (SBM), Sheboygan, Wisconsin, about 2005 and was en route to New Richmond Regional Airport (RNH), New Richmond, Wisconsin. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane was on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan.

The pilot received a preflight weather briefing from the Lansing Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) between 1641 and 1655 on January 30, 2009, which was approximately 5 hours prior to the accident. After the briefing, the pilot filed an IFR flight plan from RNH to SBM, and he filed for a return flight to depart at 2000. The weather briefer indicated that “your return trip might be more conducive for icing…” as the cloud cover was expected to lower with the evening. The pilot acknowledged the briefer and advised he would check the weather before the return flight.

The pilot departed RNH about 1745 and arrived at SBM around 1930. Fuel receipts indicated that the airplane was refueled with 18.7 gallons of fuel at SBM. The airplane departed SBM about 2005 and was cleared to 6,000 feet mean sea level (msl). At 2109, the pilot requested and was cleared to climb to 7,000 feet msl to get above the clouds. At 2134, the pilot requested and was cleared to fly direct to TADPE, the initial approach fix for the RNAV (GPS) RWY 32 instrument approach at RNH.

At 2137, the airplane was cleared to descend to 4,000 feet msl at the pilot’s discretion. At 2138, air traffic control (ATC) advised the pilot that they were not receiving the airplane’s transponder code and requested the pilot recycle the transponder. At 2141, ATC advised the pilot that they were in radar contact about 3 miles northeast of Menomonie Airport, but it was not receiving the airplane’s Mode C altitude reply. The pilot reported that they were descending through 4,500 feet msl.

At 2142, ATC asked the pilot if he was encountering any icing. The pilot replied, “Five lima victor is not picking up any ice at this point.” ATC advised the pilot that about 30 – 40 miles north of Minneapolis there were reports of moderate icing between 3,000 – 4,000 feet msl. At 2143, the pilot stated, “Okay, we’ll keep our eyes open. Thanks." There were no further radio transmissions from N495LV.

Radar track data indicated that at 2143 the airplane was flying in a north, northwest direction and crossed the Red Cedar River about a half mile south of the accident site. The track data indicated that the airplane entered a right turn. The last radar return at 2144 was approximately one half mile to the northwest of the accident site. There were no altitude indications since the radar was not receiving the transponder’s Mode C reply. The airplane impacted a field and traveled about 100 feet prior to entering a tree filled ravine.

A witness reported seeing aircraft beacon lights traveling at what he described as “impossibly fast.” He stated that he “heard what sounded like a smoothly running piston engine at high RPM’s.” He observed a fireball after the airplane lights disappeared below the white pines on the opposite shore. Another witness reported that he heard the sound of a "high pitched engine running at high speed" just prior to seeing a flash of light outside his house, followed by a loud "thump" which shook his house. He stated that the engine sounded like it was at “full power.” A third witness reported seeing an airplane's red and green navigation lights that were parallel to the horizon for about 2 seconds before it disappeared behind a tree line. About 2 seconds later, he saw the flash of a fireball that lit up the horizon for about a second.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The 51-year-old private pilot held single-engine land and sea ratings, and an airplane instrument rating. He held a third class medical certificate, which was issued on January 30, 2009, with the limitation, "Holder shall possess glasses that correct for near vision." The pilot's logbook indicated that he had a total of 440 flight hours. He began his flight training in February 2005. He received his private pilot's certificate on June 5, 2006, and his single-engine airplane sea rating on October 6, 2008. The pilot received his airplane instrument rating on December 20, 2008.

The pilot received 13.2 hours of flight training in a Cirrus SR22 from October 10 - 12, 2008. The flight training was conducted at the UND Aerospace Factory Training Center in Duluth, Minnesota, when he participated in the “Cirrus Factory Transition Training – VFR” course.

The pilot flew an additional 45.6 hours in a SR22 from October 12 - December 31, 2008. He flew 22 hours in the accident airplane, all of which was logged since January 1, 2009. The pilot logged about 19 hours of actual instrument flight and 16 hours of night flight since November 25, 2008.

The pilot’s logbook indicated that the pilot had made the round trip from RNH to SBM two times in January prior to the accident flight. Both return flights to RNH were at night.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was a single-engine Cirrus SR20, serial number 1223, with a Continental 210-horsepower IO-360-ES engine. The airplane was manufactured in June 2002 with an original registration number of N856CD. It was exported to Canada on February 23, 2007, with a total airframe time of 236.7 hours. It was reintroduced back into the United States in the fall of 2008 with a total time of 576.2 hours. The pilot purchased the accident airplane on November 3, 2008, and had the registration "N" number on the airplane changed to N495LV. The engine was overhauled on December 3, 2008, and was reinstalled on the airplane. The last annual maintenance inspection was conducted on December 18, 2008, with a total of 576.2 hours. The total time on the airplane at the time of the accident was about 611 hours.

The airplane was equipped with traditional analog flight instruments such as an altimeter, airspeed indicator, vertical speed indicator, attitude gyro, and magnetic compass. It had an Avidyne FlightMax Multi-Function Display (MFD) and a Sandel Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI). The avionics package included a Garmin GNS 430 and a Garmin GNC 420 global positioning system (GPS) communication and navigational radios. It also had a Stec System 30 autopilot/turn coordinator, altitude transducer, and pitch computer. The airplane was equipped with a Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), which is a whole airplane emergency parachute system. The limitations section of the Pilot Operating Handbook stated that “Flight into known icing is prohibited.”

The airplane was equipped with a single Garmin GTX-327 ATC Mode C (identification and altitude) transponder with squawk capability. The transponder had four modes: OFF, STBY, ON, and ALT. With the transponder in the ON mode, the transponder replies to interrogations, but it does not include altitude information (Mode A). In ALT mode, the transponder replies to identification and altitude interrogations. Replies to altitude interrogations include the standard pressure altitude received from an external altitude source, which is not adjusted for barometric pressure (Mode A and Mode C). Any time the function ON or ALT is selected the transponder becomes an active part of the Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System (ATCRBS).

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

The National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Depiction Chart for 2200 indicated that the accident site bordered an area of instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions, and was within the area depicted by MVFR conditions.

The Menomonie Municipal Airport (LUM), Menomonie, Wisconsin, located about 5 miles south of the accident site, had an Automated Weather Observing System 3 (AWOS-3) installed and it reported the following at 2115: Winds 150 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling overcast at 1,100 feet above ground level (agl), temperature -10 degrees Celsius (C), dew point -16 degrees C, altimeter 29.99 inches of Mercury (Hg).

At 2135, the surface weather observation at LUM was: Winds 170 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling overcast at 1,100 feet agl, temperature - 10 degrees Celsius (C), dew point - 15 degrees C, altimeter 29.99 inches of Hg.

At 2155, the surface weather observation at LUM was: Winds 160 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling overcast at 1,100 feet agl, temperature - 10 degrees Celsius (C), dew point - 15 degrees C, altimeter 29.98 inches of Hg.

RNH, located about 29 miles west-northwest of the accident site, had an AWOS-3 installed and it reported the following at 2139: Winds 200 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling overcast at 900 feet agl, temperature -7 degrees C, dew point -13 degrees C, altimeter 29.99 inches of Hg.

At 2159, the surface weather observation at RNH was: Winds 200 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling overcast at 900 feet agl, temperature -7 degrees C, dew point -12 degrees C, altimeter 29.94 inches of Hg.

The Current Icing Product (CIP) charts for 2100 and 2200 at 4,000 feet mean sea level (msl) indicated that there was a greater that 80 percent probability of icing conditions over eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, centered near the St. Paul area and no icing over the departure area of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The CIP images for 2100 and 2200 depicted an approximately 70 percent probability of icing over the accident site. CIP images for 2100 and 2200 for 7,000 feet msl, depicted a 30 – 50 percent probability of icing conditions along the route of flight.

The Area Forecast (FA) for the western half of Wisconsin was for broken clouds at 3,000 feet agl, overcast at 5,000 feet with tops layered to 25,000 feet, with visibility 3 – 5 miles in light snow and mist. Over the northern portions of the state, light freezing drizzle was expected.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane impacted a frozen, snow covered field at coordinates 44 degrees 57 minutes 36 seconds north, 091 degrees 53 minutes 31 seconds west. The initial impact site was about 8 feet long and 43 feet wide; and it contained a cratered area in the center of the impact site that was about 8 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 18 inches in depth. A debris field extended from the initial impact point on a 330 degree magnetic heading for about 400 feet. The main airplane wreckage was found in a wooded ravine that was about 100 feet from the initial impact point.

The airplane’s fuselage was largely destroyed by the initial impact with terrain and the trees in the ravine. Several large fragments of the fuselage skin were found in the debris field and ravine. The left and right cabin doors were separated from the fuselage and fractured into several pieces. The nose landing gear was separated from the engine mount and found in the debris field. The main landing gear were separated from the fuselage and found in the ravine. The engine was found in the bottom of the ravine. The three-bladed propeller separated from the engine and was found on the far slope of the ravine. The instrument panel and radio stack were separated from the fuselage and found crushed near the bottom of the ravine. The instruments were separated from the panel. The left and right front seats were located on the northwest side of the ravine in an open field about 400 feet from the initial impact point.

The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) parachute and associated components were found in the wreckage path about 120 feet from the initial point of impact. The red colored CAPS activation handle, handle holder, and activation cable were found separated from the fuselage. The CAPS safety pin with the red colored "Remove Before Flight" tag was found in the activation handle still in the handle holder. (According to the Cirrus Pilot's Operating Handbook, the preflight checklist calls for the CAPS safety pin to be removed prior to flight)

The wing separated from the fuselage and was extensively fractured and fragmented. The wing spar was found in the ravine. Several sections of the left and right wing skins were located in the debris field and the ravine. The left and right flaps were separated from the wing and found in the ravine. The left and right ailerons were separated from the wing and found in the ravine. The left and right aileron control cables remained attached to their respective aileron actuation pulleys. The roll trim motor was located in the full left trim position. The flap actuator was not located.

The vertical stabilizer was separated from the fuselage and was located in the ravine. The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer. The left and right elevators were separated from the horizontal stabilizer and were located in the ravine. The aft elevator control cable remained attached to the elevator control pulley. The aft rudder control cable remained attached to the rudder control pulley. The pitch trim motor was located in a position between neutral and full pitch up.

The engine, engine accessories, and propeller assembly were taken to the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department for inspection. The crankcase had impact damage on all sides. The forward section of the crankcase was missing and the camshaft and crankshaft were visible. The forward section of the crankshaft from forward of the #4 main bearing forward to the propeller flange radii was missing. The crankshaft and connecting rods had a residue of oil and no thermal discoloration was observed. Half of the camshaft (aft) gear separated and was not found. The remaining camshaft gear teeth and the crankshaft gear cluster were undamaged and had a residue of oil. All of the cylinders had impact damage to their cooling fins and overhead components. All of the cylinders were borescoped and all of the combustion chambers and piston heads had light gray deposits. The cylinder valves had deposits consistent with normal operation.

None of the engine accessories remained attached to the engine as a result of impact damage. The induction assembly separated from the engine and had impact damage. Both magneto separated from the engine and one was found in the debris field. The magneto drive shaft rotated by hand and the impulse coupling engaged. The magneto had impact damage to the housing and no spark was obtained from the terminal ends. The fuel pump was disassembled and no anomalies were noted with the exception of the impact damage. The vacuum pump cover was removed and the rotor and blades had impact damage. The vacuum pump drive coupling was not found. The fuel manifold valve was found in the debris field. It was disassembled and fuel was found in the plunger cavity. The screen was clear of debris and the diaphragm and the retaining nut were undamaged and secure. The propeller governor was found in the debris field. It was disassembled and the screen/seal was clear of debris and undamaged.

The propeller spinner had impact damage and only a portion remained attached to the hub. The cylinder was missing and the spring assembly had impact damage. The crankshaft propeller flange remained attached to the hub. The propeller blade marked “A” was found loose in the hub. It was bent aft with scuffing along the leading edge from mid-section to the hub. The blade had chordwise scratching, nicks, and scoffing and curling at the blade tip. The propeller blade marked “B” was bent aft near the blade hub with scuffing of the entire chambered surface area. The leading edge had gouges from the mid-section to the tip. The propeller blade marked “C” had leading edge gouges, chordwise scratching, and a slight s-bending.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Sacred Heart Hospital Pathology Department, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on February 2, 2009. The cause of death was “massive physical trauma and disruption.” A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Civil Aeromedical Institute. The results were negative for carbon monoxide and cyanide. 11 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol was detected in the blood. The ethanol found was from sources other than ingestion. 0.006 (ug/ml, ug/g) of diphenhydramine was detected in the blood, and it was also detected in the liver.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The MFD flash card was sent to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) Vehicle Recorders for examination. The examination revealed that the unit’s data storage flash memory card was subjected to severe fire and heat damage. In an attempt to recover the data, the damaged memory devices were transplanted to an identical undamaged data storage card for retrieval. The extent of the damage prevented the recovery of the stored data therefore no information that pertained to the accident flight was recovered.

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