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Thu, Dec 08, 2011

NTSB Prelim: VFR Pilot Operated In IFR Conditions

Pilot And Passenger Fatally Injured In Illinois Accident

The NTSB preliminary report from an accident in Crystal Lake, IL on the Saturday after Thanksgiving tells a tale that is unfortunately all too familiar. The VFR-rated pilot of a Cirrus SR20 who did not want to "get stuck all day" due to weather continued his flight in IFR conditions. While no probable cause has been established for the accident, the outcome of those circumstances is often predictable.

SR20 File Photo

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA083
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, November 26, 2011 in Crystal Lake, IL
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR20, registration: N223CD
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On November 26, 2011, about 1025 central standard time, a Cirrus Design SR20, N223CD, impacted a tree and terrain near Crystal Lake, Illinois. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The aircraft was registered to Marion Pilots Club and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as personal flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site. The flight originated from Marion Regional Airport (MZZ), Marion, Indiana about 0830. The intended destination was DuPage Airport (DPA), West Chicago, Illinois.

At 0958, the pilot contacted DPA Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) and inquired about landing at DPA. The controller advised the pilot that the airport was under instrument flight rules. However, the flight inadvertently flew over the airport. The pilot reversed course in an attempt to return to the airport but lost sight of it. He subsequently informed the controller that he was not sure if he wanted to land at DPA because he did not want to "get in there and get stuck all day" due to the weather. The controller noted that Chicago Executive Airport (PWK), located about 20 miles northeast of DPA, was reporting visual flight rules (VFR) conditions. The pilot subsequently informed the controller that the flight was "in and out of the clouds right now." When the controller asked the pilot if he was instrument flight rules (IFR) qualified, the pilot replied that he was in "IFR training and I've let this get around me."

About 1012, the flight was transferred to the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility. The Chicago TRACON controller also provided weather conditions at airports in the vicinity of the accident flight. The pilot initially advised the controller that he would proceed to PWK, which the closest airport reporting VFR weather conditions at the time. However, the pilot later advised the controller that he was no longer inbound to PWK. He commented that he didn't want to "mess with the weather" and didn't want to "get stuck in here." The controller subsequently approved a frequency change and the pilot acknowledged that transmission. No further communications were received from the accident flight.

A witness located within 1/2 mile of the accident site reported hearing an airplane in the area; however, he was not able to see it because of the cloud cover. He noted that it sounded like the airplane was doing aerobatics, with the airplane climbing and descending. Less than 1 minute later, he observed the airplane south of his location in an approximate 70-degree nose down attitude. The airplane subsequently impacted the ground. He noted a faint fuel smell shortly after the accident when he responded to the site. It was misty, with a light rain at the time of the accident.

The airplane impacted a tree and an open agricultural field about 4 miles north-northwest of Lake in the Hills Airport (3CK). Multiple tree limbs up to about 4 inches in diameter exhibiting fresh breaks were distributed over an approximate 45-foot by 45-foot area immediately north of the tree. The wreckage path was oriented on a bearing of approximately 009 degrees magnetic. The debris field was about 400 feet long by 75 feet wide originating at the tree bordering the field. The main wreckage came to rest approximately 97 feet north of the tree. The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, right wing, and horizontal stabilizer. The remaining airframe components, including all control surfaces, were located within the debris field. The engine and propeller had separated from the airframe and were each located 155 feet and 131 feet north of the main wreckage, respectively.

Weather conditions recorded at DPA, located about 22 miles south of the accident site, at 1029, included overcast clouds at 900 feet above ground level, 1-3/4 miles visibility in light rain and mist, and wind from 170 degrees at 11 knots.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating issued on April 22, 2010. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicated that the pilot did not hold an instrument rating. He was issued a third-class airman medical certificate, with a restriction for corrective lenses, on June 28, 2011. Prior to the accident, the pilot had logged about 205 hours total flight time, with approximately 114 hours flight time in the accident airplane. The accident flight was approximately 2 hours in duration. The pilot's logbook included a high performance airplane endorsement.

The accident airplane was a Cirrus Design model SR20, serial number 1110. The airplane was powered by a 210-horsepower Continental Motors IO-360-ES six-cylinder, reciprocating engine, serial number 827771-R. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated about 1,758 hours total time in-service. The engine was installed on the airframe in December 2008 and had accumulated about 459 hours since new. According to the airplane maintenance records, the most recent annual inspection was completed on April 5, 2011.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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