11 lessons from a fatal Cirrus crash

Rick Beach has written an extensive and must read article for the Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association (COPA) website listing eleven lessons from a Cirrus crash last May 25, 2010, that led to two fatalities (The crash was also covered extensively in two COPA forum threads: Cirrus Fatal #61 in SR20 C-GYPJ near Buttonville Airport, Toronto, Canada and Transport Canada report on Buttonville SR20 accident). To quickly summarize the incident: The SR20 had departed the Buttonville Aiport in Canada after avionics maintenance with two pilots aboard. However, a cylinder fractured causing a loss of engine power and the pilots attempted to return to the airport. Instead, they lost control, attempted to perform a recovery and ended up impacting the roof of a commercial building.

Rick wrote extensively about eleven lessons that can be learned from the crash but here is a quick summary of his key points:

  • Lesson #1: Diligently maintain your aircraft but remember that there are some failures that are extremely rare events. Nevertheless, you should still plan for them.
  • Lesson #2: Mechanical things will fail and you must both plan for this as well as practice your emergency procedures.
  • Lesson #3: Two (or more) pilots in an aircraft may create both confusion and different responses.  Hence, be sure to do a briefing on the ground to determine who is  the PIC, who will make the key decisions in the event of an emergency and how the other pilot(s) will contribute in such a situation.
  • Lesson #4: If your aircraft does not have any power, you must act immediately.
  • Lesson #5: Practice the emergency procedures. In particular, prepare for a situation where there is partial engine power loss and be ready to correct such a situation within seconds.
  • Lesson #6: When preparing to land at an unfamiliar airport, be sure to look at the terrain and land use off the ends of the runways as you come in so that you can see what will be underneath you when you depart.
  • Lesson #7: Be sure to prepare a departure briefing for each and every airport and departure. In addition, note the CAPS altitude of 500 feet AGL.
  • Lesson #8: Think about your decision criteria for using CAPS in an emergency during both takeoffs and departures. Remember, no one has died when CAPS was activated below 133 knots and above 1000′ AGL.
  • Lesson #9: Pull early – especially if you have altitude and are faced with a risky off-airport landing.  You need just 8 seconds and a few hundred feet of altitude above ground.
  • Lesson #10: Remember, CAPS can be used to reduce your impact energy.
  • Lesson #11: Do everything you possibly can to avoid stalling your aircraft and then losing control.

Rick’s entire article is a must read – especially if you fly a Cirrus aircraft.

Cirrus SR20

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