Saturday, October 13, 2018

Cirrus SR22, N401SC: Fatal accident occurred January 25, 2017 near Stinson Municipal Airport (KSSF), San Antonio, Texas

Major Lee Berra

Lee Michael Berra was born in St. Louis on March 7, 1984 and passed away in an airplane crash January 25, 2017 at the age of 32. Lee attended Our Lady of the Pillar grade school, graduated from St. Louis University High in 2002, and graduated from the University of Southern California and was commissioned into the United States Air Force in 2006. Major Lee Berra was a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base. During his decade in the military, he flew 2,599 military flight hours in 30 different aircraft with 2,270 in the supersonic B-1 Lancer. He deployed to the Middle East 3 times. Major Lee Berra was also a licensed commercial pilot.


The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. Aviation 

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Antonio, Texas
Cirrus Aircraft; Duluth, Minnesota
Continental Motors Inc.; Mobile, Alabama

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

http://registry.faa.gov/N401SC



Location: San Antonio, TX
Accident Number: CEN17FA084
Date & Time: 01/25/2017, 1539 CST
Registration: N401SC
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Aerodynamic stall/spin
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On January 25, 2017, at 1539 central standard time, a Cirrus Design SR-22 airplane, N401SC, was destroyed during an in-flight collision with trees and terrain about 1 mile southeast of the Stinson Municipal Airport (SSF), San Antonio, Texas. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The flight originated from the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) at 1533. The intended destination was SSF.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control (ATC) radar data indicated that the flight departed from runway 4 at SAT and proceeded southbound toward SSF at an altitude of about 2,500 feet mean sea level (msl). At 1536, the pilot contacted the SSF control tower and informed the controller that the flight was 8 miles north of SSF. The controller instructed the pilot to enter a right downwind for landing on runway 32. At 1538, the SSF tower controller cleared the pilot to land. The controller subsequently observed the airplane turn from downwind to base in the traffic pattern. He did not observe the accident sequence itself.

A witness reported observing the airplane from the opposite side of the San Antonio River. The airplane's wings were "totally vertical." The airplane appeared to be on a northeast heading and to be losing altitude at that time. The airplane subsequently nosed over and descended toward the ground.

A second witness observed the airplane for about 2 seconds before it descended below the tree line. The airplane appeared to be northbound with the wings oriented nearly vertical. The airplane's altitude appeared to be relatively constant during the brief time he observed it; however, it appeared to be moving more slowly than other airplanes he had seen flying in the area. The engine sounded "fine;" although, somewhat louder than other airplanes possibly because it was lower than other airplanes.

An NTSB airplane performance study was completed based on data recovered from the airplane avionics system. The airplane entered the SSF traffic pattern about 1,400 ft msl and 117 knots calibrated airspeed (KCAS). The airplane slowed to about 95 KCAS and descended to about 1,200 ft msl on the downwind traffic pattern leg. The airplane subsequently entered a continuous right turn from downwind toward final approach to runway 32. The data suggested that the pilot did not fly a traditional rectangular traffic pattern, but instead flew a circling base to final pattern.

About 1539:44, the airplane appeared to level briefly before beginning a shallow climb. The data suggested that the airplane was approaching the extended runway 32 centerline at an airspeed of 103 KCAS, an altitude of 796 ft msl, and in an approximate 48° right bank. About one second later, the airplane entered a descent which ultimately exceeded 1,800 fpm.

Lateral accelerations began to increase about 1539:41 and reached 0.49g about 1539:45. The accelerations varied between 0.37g and 0.62g for the remainder of the dataset. The recorded lateral accelerations were consistent with sideslip angles of 15° to 20° during the final turn. The calculated angle-of-attack (AOA) of the wing exceeded the critical AOA of 24° about 1539:48. Shortly afterward, the descent rate of 1,800 fpm was recorded. Although the pilot's control inputs were not directly recorded, the large lateral accelerations are consistent with left rudder input and an uncoordinated flight condition for the airplane.



Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 32, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/22/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 2556 hours (Total, all aircraft)

The pilot held a FAA commercial pilot certificate with single-engine and multi-engine land airplane, and instrument airplane ratings. He was also a current U.S. Air Force pilot. He had passed a flight duty medical examination in September 2016, which satisfied the requirement for a FAA medical certificate in accordance with 14 CFR 61.23 (b)(9).

U.S. Air Force records revealed that the pilot had accumulated 2,411.7 hours total military flight time, with the majority of that in B-1B airplanes. On his most recent application for a FAA medical certificate, dated July 2006, the pilot reported a total civilian flight time of 145 hours. The pilot's civilian logbook was not available to the NTSB. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP
Registration: N401SC
Model/Series: SR22
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2004
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 0951
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 01/24/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 1 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 1124.6 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
ELT: C91A installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: IO-550-N-27
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 310 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

The airplane was issued a FAA airworthiness certificate in June 2004. It was purchased by the pilot and a co owner in June 2016. Airplane maintenance records revealed that the most recent annual inspection was completed on January 24, 2017, the day before the accident, at an airframe total time of 1,123.3 hours. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated 1,124.6 hours.

A friend of the pilot reported that he had flown the airplane in December 2016. While in cruise flight at 7,500 feet, the stall warning activated and the autopilot disengaged. Maintenance documentation, dated December 8, 2016, noted that the stall warning line was blocked. The blockage was removed, and the stall warning system was tested and determined to be operational.

The stall speeds published in the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) are 70 KCAS at a bank angle of 45° and 84 KCAS at a bank angle of 60°, with the wing flaps full down (100%) and a forward center-of-gravity. The stall speed data is applicable when the engine power is at idle, and the airplane is in a level flight attitude at a maximum gross weight of 3,400 lbs. The published stall speeds are also contingent on coordinated flight and do not account for the adverse effects of sideslip, which was experienced during the final turn.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: SSF, 577 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1553 CST
Direction from Accident Site: 315°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility: 10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 12 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 10°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 29.92 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 21°C / -6°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: San Antonio, TX (SAT)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: San Antonio, TX (SSF)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 1532 CST
Type of Airspace: Class D 

Visual meteorological condition prevailed at the time of the accident with the surface wind from 010° at 12 knots. The wind aloft at 3,000 ft was forecast to be from 030° at 18 knots. An Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) advisory was in effect for the possibility of moderate turbulence below 18,000 ft. At 1228, a pilot reported moderate turbulence about 15 miles northwest of SAT between 9,000 ft and 7,500 ft. No other pilot reports for turbulence below 18,000 ft within 100 miles of SAT were on file. 

Airport Information

Airport: Stinson Municipal (SSF)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 577 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 32
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 4128 ft / 100 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Traffic Pattern 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  29.326944, -98.458056 

The airplane impacted a wooded area about one-half mile southeast of the runway 32 arrival threshold. Tree breaks began about 105 ft from the airplane wreckage. The impact path was oriented on an approximate 050° bearing. A ground impact mark was located about 30 ft from the airplane wreckage along the impact/debris path. The airplane came to rest upright on an approximate bearing of 270°.

Airframe and engine examinations did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a pre-impact failure or malfunction. A detailed summary of the examinations is included in the docket associated with the investigation. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Bexar County Medical Examiner, San Antonio, Texas, performed an autopsy and attributed the pilot's death to blunt forces injuries sustained in the accident. Toxicology testing performed by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for all substances in the testing profile. 

Additional Information

The Cirrus Design SR-22 Pilot's Operating Handbook stated that the airplane stall characteristics are conventional. Power-off stalls may be accompanied by a slight nose bobbing if full aft stick is held. Power-on stalls are marked by a high sink rate at full aft stick. Extreme care must be taken to avoid uncoordinated or accelerated control inputs when close to the stall, especially when close to the ground. If, at the stall, the flight controls are misapplied and accelerated inputs are made to the elevator, rudder, and/or ailerons, an abrupt wing drop may be felt and a spiral or spin may be entered.

The FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3B) noted that coordinated flight is important to maintaining control of the airplane. Situations can develop when a pilot is flying in uncoordinated flight and depending on the flight control deflections, may support pro-spin flight control inputs. This is especially hazardous when operating at low altitudes, such as in the airport traffic pattern. A cross-control stall occurs when the critical AOA is exceeded with aileron pressure applied in one direction and rudder pressure in the opposite direction, causing uncoordinated flight. The aerodynamic effects of an uncoordinated, cross-control stall can occur with very little warning and can be deadly if it occurs close to the ground. The nose may pitch down, the bank angle may suddenly change, and the airplane may continue to roll to an inverted position, which is usually the beginning of a spin.

NTSB Identification: CEN17FA084 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 25, 2017 in San Antonio, TX
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N401SC
Injuries: 1 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. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On January 25, 2017, about 1540 central standard time, a Cirrus Design SR22 airplane, N401SC, was substantially damaged during an in-flight collision with trees and terrain about one mile southeast of the Stinson Municipal Airport (SSF), San Antonio, Texas. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The flight originated from the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) about 1532.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control (ATC) radar data indicated that the flight departed from runway 4 at SAT and proceeded southbound toward SSF at an altitude of 2,500 feet mean sea level (msl). At 1535, the pilot contacted the SSF control tower and was instructed to enter a right downwind for landing on runway 32 (4,128 feet by 100 feet, asphalt). At 1538, the SSF tower controller cleared the pilot to land. The controller subsequently observed the airplane turn from downwind to base in the traffic pattern. He did not observe the accident sequence itself.

A witness reported observing the airplane from the opposite side of the San Antonio River. The airplane's wings were "totally vertical." The airplane appeared to be on a northeast heading and to be losing altitude at that time. The airplane subsequently nosed over and descended toward the ground.

A second witness observed the airplane for about two seconds before it descended below the tree line. The airplane appeared to be northbound with the wings oriented nearly vertical. The airplane's altitude appeared to be relatively constant during the brief time he observed it; however, it appeared to be moving more slowly than other airplanes he had seen flying in the area.

The airplane impacted a wooded area about one-half mile southeast of the runway 32 arrival threshold. Tree breaks began about 105 feet from the airplane wreckage. The impact path was oriented on an approximate 050-degree bearing. A ground impact mark was located about 30 feet from the airplane wreckage along the impact/debris path. The airplane came to rest upright on an approximate bearing of 270 degrees. All airframe structural components and flight control surfaces were observed at the accident site.

The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) had separated from the fuselage. It was suspended in a tree near the ground impact mark. The parachute remained packed within the deployment bag. The CAPS cover had separated from the fuselage and was observed lying on the ground within the perimeter of the ground impact mark. This was consistent with a partial deployment of the system at the time of impact, rather than as an intentional in-flight deployment by the pilot.

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