Sunday, May 16, 2021

Cirrus SR22, N4144B: Accident occurred May 15, 2021 in Whitewater, Walworth County, Wisconsin

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.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Location: Whitewater, WI
Accident Number: CEN21LA232
Date & Time: May 15, 2021, 21:15 Local 
Registration: N4144B
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On May 15, 2021, about 2115 central daylight time, a Cirrus SR22, N4144B, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near Whitewater, Wisconsin. The pilot and passenger were uninjured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

According to the pilot, while on an instrument flight rules flight, he began receiving conflicting information from the flight instruments and digital flight information display. He stated that the turn coordinator and GPS were displaying opposite information, the heading bug was moving erratically, and he felt as if he was flying in circles. After determining that he could not rely on the information from the flight instruments, he elected to activate the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. The airplane came to rest in a stand of 60 ft tall trees.

The airplane was equipped with a standard attitude indicator, turn coordinator, altimeter and vertical speed indicator. Also installed was a Sandel SN-3308 electronic horizontal situation indicator and an Apple iPad that utilized the Foreflight application.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N4144B
Model/Series: SR22 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: IMC 
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KJVL,808 ft msl
Observation Time: 20:45 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 18 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 13°C /13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , 210°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 400 ft AGL
Visibility: 4 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.13 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Sheboygan, WI (KSBM)
Destination: Burlington, WI (KBUU)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 42.787917,-88.684086

WALWORTH COUNTY (WKOW) - The pilot of a crashed plane in the town of Whitewater credits his rescuers with incredible work as he and two passengers were extracted from wreckage approximately one hundred feet off the ground in a canopy of trees.

"They're phenomenal," pilot Brian Onstad told 27 News.

Whitewater Fire Department officials say the Cirrus SR22 was losing power Saturday during a planned flight from Sheboygan to Burlington and crashed into trees in the Kettle Morraine Forest near County Road P. Onstad deployed the aircraft's parachute before the crash.

Onstad told 27 News his head is still spinning.

"Everything's a little chaotic right now but it will come together," Onstad said.

Assets from several fire departments including the Madison Fire Department's Heavy Urban Rescue Team and other law enforcement agencies responded to the crash scene. Also responding to the crash was Mukwonago-based arborist Jason Dudek.

Dudek climbed a tree adjacent to the suspended, small plane and facilitated the rescue.

"It had a good area with solid wood around it where I could set up a rigging for the rescue crew to go extract the victims," Dudek said.

Dudek says the victims showed incredible poise.

"Given they were some eighty feet up, they were really, really calm and held their stuff together," Dudek said.

"We were in contact the whole time," Onstad said of his communication with rescuers.

Dudek said he's trained on aerial rescues but had never been summoned to a plane crash. He deflected praise for his work in making it possible for the three crash victims to be lowered in harnesses to the ground.

"This was a great opportunity to help the community out, help rescuers that give their all every day," Dudek said.

Walworth County Emergency Management Lieutenant Jason Rowland said the combined rescue effort was needed.

"Everybody came together got the job done so three people were able to.walk away from what could have been a very bad day," Rowland said.

Rowland said state officials, Onstad and his aircraft insurers are still assessing how to remove the wreckage from the tree height near a hiking trail.

"It's going to be a daunting task," Rowland said.

Onstad declined to comment on any flight issues prior to the crash landing in the trees. "I can't answer that right now."

FAA Midwestern Region Spokesperson Tony Molinaro has yet to respond to a request for comment from 27 News.

Dudek says Onstad called him to express gratitude for his rescue work. Dudek says the outcome that all were safe and uninjured is all that matters to him.

"I couldn't be happier," Dudek said.


The Madison Fire Department - Heavy Urban Rescue Team (HURT) was dispatched to the Kettle Moraine State Forest late Saturday evening, May 15, 2021, to assist Whitewater Fire following a plane crash.

The team was notified that a small plane experienced an engine problem, prompting the pilot to deploy a parachute to slow the plane's descent. The plane landed in a tree, resting approximately 100 feet off the ground.

MFD HURT was assigned to assist Janesville Fire’s on-the-ground technical rescue team. Up above, harnesses were being applied to the occupants of the airplane— three in total.

Miraculously, no one was injured. All three were successfully lowered to the ground and able to walk themselves to safety to be evaluated by EMS.

Based out of Fire Station 8 on Madison's east side, the HURT is one of the MFD's four special teams. They specialize in a variety of emergencies and special rescue, including high-angle rescue, trench rescue, building collapse, and more. They provide countywide and regional response when needed. Learn more about the Heavy Urban Rescue Team.

(WGTD)---A dare-devil rescue was performed by firefighters from southern Wisconsin after a small plane crashed into treetops in the Kettle Moraine State Forest near Whitewater Saturday evening. The three men inside--uninjured--were hung up in the wreckage for hours until they could be lowered to the ground in a harness. 

The rescue effort was led by technical rescue teams from the Madison and Janesville fire departments, with plenty of assistance from local fire departments and law enforcement personnel, according to Janesville Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Ryan Murphy.

The plane apparently encountered mechanical problems with its engine as it was flying over the area. The pilot had time to deploy a parachute that was attached to the plane, and the craft made a soft landing between 65 and 75 ft. above ground in dense woods about 400 yards from the nearest road, Murphy said. Rescuers were able to use UTV's to drive about three-quarters of the distance, but then had to traverse the rest of the way on foot.  

The rescue effort began with an arborist climbing up and rigging a rope system attached to a harness. A Janesville firefighter climbed up to help the men get into the harness one-by-one for the trip to the ground. The rescue effort was completed around 2 A.M. Sunday morning. 

The men were able to walk away from the crash site after being evaluated by emergency medical technicians. 

"It was our pleasure to assist the Whitewater Fire Dept. in getting these individuals down," Murphy said. "We were happy with the outcome and everybody was safe and uninjured," he said.


  1. Looks like a helicopter could hoist it out of there.

  2. If only Cirrus aircraft came with an extra ten gallons of fuel, "for use in emergency only."

    1. No need - just fly it until the propellor stops turning and pull the chute.


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