Thursday, May 13, 2021

Cirrus SR22 GTS G5 Carbon, N416DJ and Swearingen SA226-TC Metro III, N280KL: Accident occurred May 12, 2021 near Centennial Airport (KAPA), Arapahoe County, Colorado

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.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Denver, Colorado
Key Lime Air; Englewood, Colorado  

Independence Aviation LLC


Location: Englewood, CO
Accident Number: CEN21FA215
Date & Time: May 12, 2021, 10:23 Local 
Registration: N280KL (A1); N416DJ (A2)
Aircraft: Swearingen SA226TC (A1); CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22 (A2) 
Injuries: 1 None (A1); 2 None (A2)
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Positioning (A1); Part 91: General aviation - Personal (A2)

On May 12, 2021, at 1023 mountain daylight time, a Cirrus SR22, N416DJ, and a Swearingen SA226TC, N280KL, collided in flight while approaching to land at Centennial Airport (APA), Englewood, Colorado. There were no injuries on either airplane. N416DJ was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight, and N280KL was operated as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 positioning flight.

N416DJ departed APA for a local flight about 0921, and N280KL departed the Salida Airport (ANK), Salida, Colorado, about 0956.

A review of preliminary air traffic control (ATC) communications and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that, N416DJ was performing a right-hand traffic pattern for runway 17R at APA, and N280KL was on final approach for runway 17L at APA, when the collision occurred. Both airplanes were in communication with air traffic control during their respective approaches to the airport.

About 1022:43, N280KL was about 5.5 nm from APA and had completed a right turn to align with the final approach course to runway 17L. At this same time, N416DJ was on the downwind leg of the righthand traffic pattern for runway 17R just before he commenced a right turn to the base leg of the traffic pattern. N280KL continued its approach and remained aligned with runway 17L. N416DJ continued the right-hand traffic pattern through the base leg, and then began to turn toward the final approach course for the runway. The airplanes collided at 1023:53 when they were about 3.2 nm from APA. N280KL was aligned with runway 17L while N416DJ was turning from base to final and heading about 146° when the collision occurred.

After the impact, N280KL declared an emergency, continued to APA, and landed successfully on runway 17L without further incident. The pilot of N416DL reported that the airplane was not controllable after the impact and he deployed the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). N416DJ came to rest about 3 nm north of APA.

Both airplanes were substantially damaged.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information (A1)

Aircraft Make: Swearingen
Registration: N280KL
Model/Series: SA226TC Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Flag carrier (121),
Supplemental, On-demand air taxi (135)
Operator Designator Code:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information (A2)

Registration: N416DJ
Model/Series: SR22
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: APA,5883 ft msl
Observation Time: 10:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 10°C /-1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 8000 ft AGL 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.27 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: 

Wreckage and Impact Information (A1)

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 39.585036,-104.85469

Wreckage and Impact Information (A2)

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 39.585036,-104.85469

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colorado — In the moments after two small planes crashed in mid-air over Cherry Creek State Park Wednesday, the pilot inside a Cirrus SR22 pulled a handle that fired a rocket to deploy a large parachute.

Cellphone video captured from the park showed the small plane floating to the ground where it came to rest in the grass beside a trail.

The pilot of the other plane, a Key Lime Air Metroliner, landed at Centennial Airport despite missing a large chunk of the fuselage. Two people inside the Cirrus also walked away without any injuries.

“Never have we seen a parachute be deployed and bring the plane down safely," said John Bartmann, spokesperson for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office. “I think everybody here was impressed by the two occupants being able to walk away with zero injuries.”

A plane landing by parachute was a first for local first responders, but for more than 40 years, it's been the business of BRS Aerospace.

“This is exactly why this technology exists," said Enrique Dillon, president of the Miami-based company.

BRS Aerospace has equipped more than 37,000 small planes with parachutes. Some planes can even be retrofitted with the technology.

“The idea is to save the whole aircraft," Dillon said. "The parachute comes out with an extractor rocket that pulls everything out of the aircraft and separates it from the airframe."

Dillon said it takes less than two seconds to deploy the parachute.

"The aircraft comes down gently to ensure that the occupants of the aircraft are safe," he said.

The Cirrus SR22 involved in Wednesday's mid-air collision and other Cirrus models come standard with BRS Aerospace parachutes. Dillon said the technology has saved 443 people over the years.

“It’s very rewarding," Dillon said. "Honestly, it’s very rewarding.”

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were on the ground investigating the mid-air crash Wednesday.

The NTSB said in a release Thursday investigators were working to figure out how and why the two planes collided. Investigators interviewed both pilots and planned to interview the air traffic controllers at Centennial Airport.

A preliminary investigation will be published in the next two weeks, and the NTBS said the entire investigation is expected to take between 12 and 18 months.

(CBS4)– Crews with South Metro Fire Rescue and the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office rushed to the wreckage from a plane crash after two small planes collided mid-air on Wednesday morning. No injuries were reported.

The wreckage of one plane was found south of Cherry Creek Reservoir and the other plane landed at Centennial Airport with a huge hole in its cabin.

Witnesses say they are shocked nobody was killed or hurt. Two people walked away from the crash scene.

“I was in the kitchen and I heard a loud firecracker bang. I ran out (on to my patio). Right when I got here I heard another bang,” said Shelly Whitehead, a witness. “I saw a plane coming down.”

The in-flight collision happened over Cherry Creek State Park to the southeast of Denver’s city limits, and the plane that crashed did so close to where Belleview Avenue intersects with Peoria Street.

Before the crash, air traffic control could be heard asking, “Cirrus 6 Delta Juliet did you overshoot the final?” and then “Cirrus 6 Delta Juliet do you require assistance?”

Seven seconds later the controller says, “Cirrus 6 Delta Juliet if you hear this transmission we have emergency vehicles in your direction.”

Video of the smaller red aircraft falling to the ground, guided by a parachute, was recorded by Hector Velazquez. He is heard asking his coworkers if they should run to help, and then points out others were already running around the crash site.

From her patio, Whitehead told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas she couldn’t do anything but watch as the plane went down.

“I thought, ‘Is it somebody just jumping out of a plane?’ And then I realized the parachute was attached to a plane,” Whitehead recalled. “I thought for sure they weren’t going to make it out of there.”

Her friend, Frances, was walking in Cherry Creek State Park when the plane crashed. She, and her dog, ran for cover as the plane plummeted from above.

First responders told CBS4 they expected the worst when they were dispatched to a plane down following a mid-air collision.

Whitehead said it was a miracle the planes, or falling debris, didn’t land on homes or people in the popular neighborhood between Cherry Creek Reservoir and Centennial Airport. She said she’s always wondered if this type of incident could happen while living under the flight line for the runways, but she never expected it would actually happen.

“It was kind of scary. But at the same time I was stunned it was happening,” Whitehead said. “It’s right in our backyard.”

Investigators from the FAA and NTSB are now working to determine what caused the collision.

The FAA released this statement on the preliminary investigation, “A Cirrus SR-22 and a Swearingen Metroliner SA226TC collided in midair approximately four miles north of Centennial Airport in Denver, Colorado, around 10:25 a.m. local time today. The pilot of the Cirrus deployed the aircraft’s parachute and landed in a nearby neighborhood. The pilot of the Swearingen landed at Centennial Airport. Two people were onboard the Cirrus and one person was onboard the Swearingen. Please check with local authorities for the occupants’ conditions and identities. We have no reports of people on the ground being injured. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents.”

Key Lime Air released this statement to CBS4 which reads in part: Key Lime Air has received confirmed reports that on March 12, 2021 at approximately 10:20AM Mountain Time one of our cargo aircraft, a Fairchild Metroliner was on approach to landing at Centennial Airport when it was struck by another aircraft.

The Metroliner sustained substantial damage to the empennage and tail section but the pilot was able to continue the approach and landed safely.

It is our understanding that the pilot of the other aircraft, a Cirrus SR22 deployed the ballistic recovery parachute and that the pilot and passenger did not suffer injury.

We are participating in an active investigation of the incident with the FAA and NTSB. As information comes to light, if authorities deem it appropriate to share with the public, we will do so. We cannot express the gratitude we have, company-wide that no one was injured. We thank all those who have reached out with concern for our company and its people.

WASHINGTON (KDVR) — National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) records show aircraft linked to Key Lime Air and Independence Aviation have been involved in fatal crashes in recent years.

The government’s Case Analysis and Reporting Online database, or CAROL, tracks aviation accidents and recommendations made by NTSB investigators. The NTSB is mandated to investigate incidents involving fatalities, serious bodily injury or substantial damage to an aircraft that was intended for flight.

The Problem Solvers found a 2015 fatal incident linked to a rental aircraft registered to and operated by Independence Aviation LLC in Englewood, Colo.

Investigators determined the probable cause of the incident was “the pilot’s loss of airplane control following the loss of power in the left engine; the reason for the loss of power could not be determined during postaccident (sic) engine examination.”

The incident occurred after a flight over Yellowstone National Park. The pilot was flying a Cessna T310R and crashed in Cody, Wyo., killing four people.

Key Lime Air has also been involved in four accidents since 2014 for which the NTSB was mandated to investigate.

In December 2014, one person was killed when the pilot lost power to the right engine, “for reasons that could not be determined during postaccident (sic) examination and teardown.” The NTSB also blamed the pilot’s failure to properly configure the airplane for single-engine flight as a probable cause for the accident.

A cargo flight crashed near Goodland, Kan., in January 2015 because the pilot failed to properly manage the aircraft’s fuel as well as to conduct emergency procedures while improperly forcing a landing. That, according to NTSB paperwork, “resulted in fuel starvation, a total loss of engine power, and the subsequent high-energy impact with powerlines and terrain.”

The report also said the pilot was fatigued during his flight.

A Key Lime Air incident in April 2015 involved “uncontained engine failure due to the fatigue failure of the second-stage turbine rotor disk.” According to NTSB records, the crash occurred near Rifle, Colo., and the pilot was not injured.

“Postaccident (sic) examination of the airplane revealed that the right engine’s second-stage turbine rotor had separated,” the report said.

In December 2016, one person died after an “in-flight” breakup near Camilla, Ga., according to NTSB records. An investigation found the probable cause of the accident was the pilot’s decision to fly in adverse conditions. That, “resulted in spatial disorientation, a loss of airplane control, and a subsequent in-flight breakup,” the NTSB findings said.

According to FAA records, the companies are also linked to other incidents in recent years that did not rise to the level of an NTSB investigation, including aircraft veering off the runway, bird strikes, blown tires and aircraft striking a runway light.

Regarding the May 12 incident during which one of its aircraft collided in mid-air with another plane, Key Lime Air released this statement:

The Metroliner sustained substantial damage to the empennage and tail section but the pilot was able to continue the approach and landed safely. 

It is our understanding that the pilot of the other aircraft, a Cirrus SR22 deployed the ballistic recovery parachute and that the pilot and passenger did not suffer injury.

It is company policy to protect the individuals and those affected and as such we will not release names or personal information of those involved. 

We are participating in an active investigation of the incident with the FAA and NTSB. As information comes to light, if authorities deem it appropriate to share with the public, we will do so.

We cannot express the gratitude we have, company-wide that no one was injured.

We thank all those who have reached out with concern for our company and its people.



  1. Those folks need to run out and buy lottery tickets, today!!!!
    Good gawd!

  2. Looks like the cirrus may have been too fast on base?
    So glad everyone survived!

  3. Okay, so from liveatc we can hear from this recording:

    that at 23:22min in, the lym970 was on final approach and tower cleared them to land 17L. On the recording for component of tower covering 17R landings, the cirrus is entering into the pattern for 17L

    where at about 22:18min in on this recording the tower is giving the cirrus instructions for flying the pattern for 17L.

    The instructions all seem clear. You can see both planes on flightradar24 on their approaches:

    if you zoom into the highlighted N416DJ. You can see that this cirrus clearly overshot final, was indicated as 20 or so feet above lym970 and literally flying right at him. Shocking this pilot did not have a visual and overshot 17L final and smashed into lym970.

    Very, very bad. The cirrus pilot should be grounded maybe even for all time. Really inexcusable and was very fortunate to not have killed all.

    1. sorry noticing typo in indicating for cirrus flying pattern for 17L but I meant 17R, the parallel runway.

    2. Yup... the pilot is probably going to be in Cirrus trouble :)

  4. Three Very Very Very lucky People, WoW that Dornier must have an I Beam for a lower frame structure!! Incredible...

    1. NOT a Dornier. Started as a Swearingen product and later Fairchild. This one was probably a Fairchild.

  5. The FAA is going to be paying dearly for this one. Failed 7110.65 basic standard of duty. The Metro never even knew what hit him, as one retired controller put it on YT.

    1. Why would the FAA be "paying dearly"? The Cirrus pilot overshot final for 17R and into the traffic that was called out to them as being on final for 17L. Basic see-and-avoid failure for the pilot of the Cirrus. He will be the one "paying dearly" for this mistake!

    2. Is that because if you are directing traffic to land on parallel runways they still have to ensure appropriate spacing so that you don't have two planes landing at the exact same time? I was thinking about what the controller could have done (and note that had one controller landing the commercial stuff largely on 17L and then another controller landing the 17R traffic) if you have a plane that fails to turn final because the time between overshooting final and crossing the approach path of the parallel runway is probably a second or less. Seems like they should have never allowed two plans landing on parallel runways to land at the same time that way.

    3. I learned to fly at Centennial and have a lot of landings on both 17R/L. It is not at all uncommon to have near or simultaneous approaches to those runways. It is also normal to have split frequency operations to handle the traffic load. APA is a very busy airport at times. Between business aviation and GA training, it can get really busy. I think the controllers did what they could but as said previously, in this case see and avoid is paramount. The only surprise I had from a controller perspective was not immediately shutting the runway for possible FOD issues. Again, I wasn’t there in the moment and it is always easier after the fact. I will say that in my opinion the controllers at APA almost always did an outstanding job when I have flown in and out of there.

    4. I would say that the FAA and the controllers are about 90% at fault here. I can't believe they would allow parallel runway ops with GA pilot on visual. Who among us hasn't overshot final?

    5. @Hungry Pilot Because that Order requires that all pertinent traffic be issued or controllers aren't authorized to run parallel runways. Yes, the Cirrus overshoot will be a cause, the very close parallel centerlines / finals will be a factor, but an ambiguous response from the Cirrus about the Metro and not even telling the Metro about the Cirrus at all is a violation of at least two or three different requirements of that Order. It was an unsafe operation with no form of separation ensured. Just watch what the NTSB ends up saying about that.

  6. Reminds me of the 1988 Aloha Airlines Flight 243 Boeing 737-200 situation with an entire forward top half of the fuselage blown off from fatigue while in cruise flight. Wow. And what remarkable structural engineering for Fairchild (well originally designed by the small US aerospace company Swearingen who Fairchild initially was only making wings and engine nacelles for, then later bought it out).

  7. Denver7 News did a terrible job of reporting this accident. They couldn't wait to blame Key Lime Air and the flight school there. They even interviewed local people who were afraid that an airplane would soon fall out of the sky on them. It was very obvious that Denver7 hates Key Lime Air and aviation in general.

  8. Its a cargo Metro so possibly has a strengthened floor ?

  9. Luckiest sumbeeches of the year. They should go buy lotteries.

  10. I would think airplanes flying through final there would be a weekly occurance and the controllers would be on continuous lookout for this. A strong crosswind would make it all the more likely on any given day. An appropriately timed instruction to "go direct to numbers" would help keep an unfamiliar VFR airplane on the final approach course or, even better, on an angle and away from the parallel approach course. I believe the ATP guys at places like SFO fly at an angle on the parallel. That only works though if the pilot is looking at the correct runway. With digital services and traffic displays, I have to believe the tower had a display. It sounds like the controller was trying to CYA by telling the Cirrus not to over shoot after he already did. Perhaps he was distracted. I'd say 50% Cirrus and 50% controller since they should expect overshoots.

  11. as soon as you call traffic in sight, it's now your responsibility to maintain separation. The Cirrus called both the Cessna and Metro in sight. And no, controllers do not expect overshoots, especially from a plane that's based at the field.

    1. Cirrus did not say he had both in sight - he said he had traffic, but did not say both. Listen to the communications.

    2. Correct - reply of the Cirrus pilot is unclear here (as ATC points out two aircraft at the same time). Question: Were both in sight?

      I am not flying Cirrus, but how can you turn immediately on base with such high speed following a slow Cessna for the same RWY and by knowing that you cannot/should overshot (due to parallel runway) the base/final turn? How do you plan to reduce excessive speed in this situation squeezed on the pattern and following a slow Cessna ahead? What's the plan here to ascertain the sequence when deciding to turn immediately on base after ATC points out that you are number 2 for 17L, following the Cessna turning final? How can you kill your speed here?

  12. a parachute should not be a crutch for compromised flying ability or judgment.”

    Buck, Robert N.; Buck, Robert N.. Weather Flying, Fifth Edition (p. 235). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

  13. Two people in the Cirrus definitely need a change of clothing. The Metroliner pilot may have need a change of clothing after the fact. It is one thing to think you have potentially lost an engine. It is another thing entirely when you are met with the reality of the condition of your airplane after the fact. Glad that no substantial injuries occurred. Most mid-air crashes do not favor life.

  14. Look like it was almost a miss. Only Cirrus gear and left wing tip touched the Metroliner. No prop damage on the Cirrus, main gear is still attached, notch in the vertical stabilizer of the Metroliner.

  15. Metro pilot gets an A+. He maintained an amazingly straight final with an engine failure, coupled or not. He also sounded as cool as a cucumber.
    Cirrus pilot get’s an F for flying thru their extended centerline when they had called the additional traffic in sight (the metro).
    Controller gets an F. As per the ATC recording. . . when the metro declares an emergency due to an engine out, ATC conducts business as usual including authorizing parallel approaches. Once the controller saw the collision he said “cirrus 416 delta juliet do not overshoot final, cirrus 416 delta juliet do you require assistance?” He obviously thought to CYA so that he could include in his statement that he warned the cirrus not to fly thru final. Nice try tower controller.

    1. Agree with you on how the tower handled things after they recognized something very bad had happened. However, I am not sure what the tower possibly could have done for a pilot that way overshot final. Flightradar24 indicates the ground speed of the Cirrus was 143kts as it was overshooting final, and there are roughly 700ft between runway 17L center line and runway 17R center line, where at that speed the Cirrus would cover that ground in 2.9 seconds.

  16. Damn. As an ultralight flyer (Hy-Tek Hurricane 103) for over 15 years, I cannot imagine taking such a spill and coming out alive. These individuals are incredibly fortunate and I wish them the best in their lives going forwards.

  17. As an ultralight pilot for more than 15 years, I cannot imagine surviving something like that. Maybe I should just get me a PPL and a 172. In 09 Neighbor offered to sell one to me for well under market rate but I turned it down. Still kicking myself over it...

  18. Bet the Cirrus pilot/owner is going to have a tough time collecting his insurance on this one. Fine print exceptions.

  19. Sorry to those blaming ATC, completely Cirrus at fault for careless and amateurish operation. On the brief they should have seen parallel operations or be familiar, my home airport does parallel ops but would generally watch you turn base or ensure you have parallel in sight.

    I wonder if tower had ADSB feed, if visual was difficult this may have shown the convergence and overshoot.