Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Cirrus SR20 GTS G3, N89423: Fatal accident occurred June 15, 2021 near Truckee-Tahoe Airport (KTRK), Placer County, California

James Duncan Harrell, 24
Pilot, Rancher, MBA.

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; Reno, Nevada 
Cirrus Design Corporation; Duluth, Minnesota  

Sierra Skyport Ltd

Location: Truckee, CA 
Accident Number: WPR21FA228
Date & Time: June 15, 2021, 10:45 Local 
Registration: N89423
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional

On June 15, 2021, about 1045 Pacific daylight time, a Cirrus Design Corporation SR20 airplane, N98423, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at the Truckee-Tahoe Airport (TRK), Truckee, California. The flight instructor was fatally injured, and the student pilot sustained serious injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

Review of recorded communication from the air traffic control tower revealed that controllers issued taxi instructions to the pilots to taxi to runway 20. The pilots transmitted that they were ready for takeoff from runway 20 and requested closed traffic. The controller subsequently reported the wind conditions and instructed the pilots to make right closed traffic prior to issuing a clearance for takeoff. No further radio communication with the pilots were received.

A pilot rated witness reported that, while standing on the airport ramp of TRK, he observed the accident airplane depart from runway 20. The airplane appeared to make a shallow right turn, consistent with a right crosswind and downwind turns. About the time the witness expected the wings to level, the airplane abruptly banked 90° to the right and pitched down in a nose low attitude. The witness said that simultaneously a parachute was deployed from the airplane and it descended below the tree line out of visual sight. That was followed by the sound of impact with terrain. The witness added that at the time of departure, they observed an airport sign that indicated a density altitude of 7,100 ft.

Recorded Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) showed that the airplane departed from runway 20 at 1742:49 ascended to 6250 ft mean sea level (msl) and start a right southwesterly turn. The data showed that the airplane completed the turn at 1744:05, on a southwesterly heading, at an altitude of 6,325 ft msl. At 1744:14, the data showed a right turn to a northerly heading at an altitude of 6,300 ft msl, followed by a descent. The airplane remained on a northerly heading and continued to descend until ADS-B contact was lost at 17:44:21, at an altitude of 6050 ft, about 116 ft south of the accident site as seen in figure 1.

Examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge revealed that the airplane impacted terrain about 1 mile south west of the departure end of runway 20. The airplane came to rest upright in an approximate 15° nose low attitude, on a heading of about 335° magnetic, at an elevation of 5,905 ft mean sea level. No visible ground scars were observed surrounding the wreckage. The parachute rocket motor was located about 450 ft southeast of the wreckage and the parachute cover was located about 250 ft south of the wreckage. The fuselage and wings were mostly intact, however, the forward portion of the fuselage exhibited impact damage. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N89423
Model/Series: SR20 
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: KTRK,5900 ft msl
Observation Time: 11:45 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C /-2°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 13 knots / 20 knots, 230°
Lowest Ceiling: 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.27 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: Truckee, CA
Destination: Truckee, CA

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 39.305662,-120.15395 

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

James Duncan Harrell

A pilot who died Tuesday in a plane crash in Martis Valley, near Truckee, has been identified by authorities.

James Duncan Harrell, 24, of Sacramento, died Tuesday morning when the plane he was flying crashed several minutes after taking off from the Truckee Tahoe Airport, according to the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. Another man, who remains unnamed, survived the crash and was reported as being in stable condition as of Tuesday afternoon, after having been transported to the Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada.

The crashed plane was identified by the Federal Aviation Administration as a Cirrus SR20 GTS G3. The aircraft belonged to Mountain Lion Aviation, an aircraft rental service based in Nevada County, according to the FAA’s Aircraft Registry.

The crash occurred just five to 10 minutes after takeoff, and the aircraft was able to deploy a ballistic parachute before nosediving into the ground, according to a press release issued by authorities.

The Sheriff’s Office said that officials with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash, which has still not been determined.

Placer County Sheriff's Office 

June 15, 2021 at 10:45 a.m., Placer County Sheriff’s deputies and CalFire responded to a report of a plane crash in Martis Valley. Deputies were able to locate the downed single-engine plane, with two occupants. One occupant has been declared deceased, and the other is alive but injured. We will be assisting the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board as they conduct their investigation.

James Duncan Harrell