Friday, November 21, 2014

Cirrus SR22, N122ES, Graeves Auto & Appliance Inc: Alert system gave no warning before fatal midair collision -Pilot

The pilot of the airplane that collided with a helicopter near Frederick Municipal Airport last month told state police his onboard collision avoidance system did not warn him before the fatal crash.

State police interviewed Scott V. Graeves, the 55-year-old pilot of the Cirrus SR22, at the emergency room at Meritus Medical Center several hours after the October 23 collision. Graeves said his “traffic alert” system never alerted him to the presence of other aircraft in the area, according to a Maryland State Police incident report obtained by The Frederick News-Post through a Maryland Public Information Act request.

The police report explains that the traffic alert system Graeves referred to is a system that uses the transponder signals given off by other aircraft to alert pilots their proximity to avoid a collision.

The Cirrus SR22 collided with the helicopter, a Robinson R44, about 1,100 to 1,200 feet above ground at about 3:40 p.m., according to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report. All three occupants of the helicopter were killed in the collision, but Graeves and his passenger, 75-year-old Gilbert L. Porter, were almost unharmed.

Christopher D. Parsons, 29, of Westminster, William Jenkins, 47, of Morrison, Colorado, and Breandan J. MacFawn, 35, of Cumberland, were the three men who died in the helicopter.

Graeves was told three helicopters were in the vicinity when he made his second contact with the Frederick air traffic control tower about 3 miles from the airport as he was making his approach, according to both the NTSB and the state police reports.

“[Graeves] instructed the tower he could see two [helicopters] (one was at the 12 o'clock position in front of him and the second was at a distance to his 9 o'clock position),” the police report states. “He explained as soon as he informed the tower of that he observed, to his immediate left (9 o'clock position) the third helicopter was very close to his aircraft.”

Graeves told police that he then pulled sharply on the controls to gain altitude and avoid the helicopter, but he felt the collision on the left side of the plane in the wing or wheel area, the report states. Graeves activated the plane's emergency parachute, and the plane landed in a treeline off Monocacy Boulevard.

State police also interviewed two men who witnessed the collision from the rear of 1317 Bucheimer Road where one of the men, Jason Nelson, was working on his tow truck. After seeing the two aircraft collide, Nelson and a co-worker, Jonathan Francis, jumped into the truck and drove to the plane's crash site.

“Nelson stated that once they reached the airplane the pilot and front seat passenger were still inside the airplane,” the report states. “The pilot was assisted out of the plane by citizens who had come to help. Nelson and several others walked to the passenger side of the airplane where they assisted the elderly passenger out.”

When troopers spoke to Porter in the hospital, he told them there were “several heroes on the ground,” according to the report. Porter said the plane was leaking fuel when several bystanders came to his and Graeves' aid.

Francis said that he met a police officer and saw an ambulance nearby after he had helped Nelson and others get Graeves and Porter out of the plane, the report states. After directing police to the plane, Francis went to the helicopter crash site in the Frederick Self Storage lot off Monroe Avenue, where he waited for police.

- Source: tower call audio calls from the collision audio

Tower communications (graphic audio, may be disturbing) 

Cirrus SR22, N122ES, Graeves Auto & Appliance Inc. and Robinson R44 Raven II, N7518Q, Advanced Helicopter Concepts, Inc: Accident occurred October 23, 2014 near Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), Maryland

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA025A

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 23, 2014 in Frederick, MD
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N122ES
Injuries: 3 Fatal,1 Minor,1 Uninjured.

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA025B
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 23, 2014 in Frederick, MD
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N7518Q
Injuries: 3 Fatal,1 Minor,1 Uninjured.

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 October 23, 2014, about 1537 eastern daylight time, a Cirrus SR22 airplane, N122ES, and a Robinson R44 II helicopter, N7518Q, operated by Advanced Helicopter Concepts, collided in midair approximately 1 mile southwest of the Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), Frederick, Maryland. The helicopter departed controlled flight after the collision, descended vertically, and was destroyed by impact forces at ground contact. The airplane also departed controlled flight, the ballistic parachute system was deployed, and the airplane landed nose-down in a thicket of low trees and brush. The flight instructor, commercial pilot receiving instruction, and a passenger in the helicopter were fatally injured. The private pilot on board the airplane was not injured, and his passenger sustained a minor injury. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the airplane, which departed Cleveland, Tennessee on a personal flight about 1247. No flight plan was filed for the helicopter, which departed FDK on a pre-rental check-out flight about 1535. Both flights were conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Preliminary radar and voice communication information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the accident airplane first contacted the FDK local controller at 1534:10 approximately 10 miles west of the field at an altitude of 3,000 feet. The local controller acknowledged the pilot's transmission and instructed him to report three miles west of the airport for a left downwind to runway 30. The pilot acknowledged and read back the controller's instructions.

At the time the accident airplane contacted the local controller, traffic handled by the tower included two helicopters in the traffic pattern, one airplane conducting practice instrument approaches to runway 23, another airplane inbound from the southeast, and also a business jet with its IFR clearance on request.

At 1535:02, the controller cleared the accident helicopter for take-off from taxiway alpha, issued the current winds, and the call was acknowledged.

At 1536:49, the pilot of the accident airplane reported that he was three miles from the airport on a 45-degree entry for the downwind for landing on runway 30.

At 1537:22, the local controller instructed the airplane to report midfield left downwind for runway 30 and said, "I have three helicopters below ya in the uh traffic pattern". At 1537:30, the pilot of the airplane acknowledged the request to report midfield downwind and stated he had two of the helicopters in sight. Immediately after that transmission, at 1537:34, the local controller said, "Alright uh two echo sierra, I have ya in sight runway three zero, maintain your altitude to…until turning base, cleared to land."

At 1537:49, the pilot of another helicopter in the traffic pattern reported that an airplane and helicopter were both "down."

Witnesses on the ground observed the aircraft converge at the same altitude. One witness who observed both aircraft converge indicated that neither aircraft changed altitude as they approached each other and the two subsequently collided.

A flight instructor for the operator in another company helicopter followed the accident helicopter in the traffic pattern for landing abeam runway 30. He said his helicopter had just completed the turn onto the crosswind leg of the traffic pattern, when the accident helicopter came into his view. At the same time, the airplane appeared in his field of view as it collided with the helicopter rotor system.

The pilot of the accident airplane was not immediately available for interview.

The airplane pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 31, 2014. He reported 1,080 total hours of flight experience, of which 1,000 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.

The flight instructor held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 31, 2014. Examination of his logbook revealed 832 total hours of flight experience, of which 116 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model.

The pilot receiving instruction held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for airplane single engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 29, 2013, and he reported 2,850 total hours of flight experience on that date. Excerpts of a pilot logbook revealed 1,538 total hours of helicopter experience.

The 1553 weather observation at FDK included scattered clouds at 4,800 feet, 10 miles visibility, and winds from 330 degrees at 16 knots gusting to 21 knots.

FDK was located at an elevation of 306 feet and the air traffic control tower was operating at the time of the accident. The published traffic pattern altitude for single-engine and light-twin airplanes was 1,300 feet mean sea level (msl), and 1,800 feet msl for heavy multiengine and jet airplanes. The traffic pattern was a standard left-hand pattern, and there was no published traffic pattern or altitude for helicopters.

The helicopter wreckage and its associated debris came to rest in a self-storage complex between two buildings, with parts and debris scattered in and around the complex. All major components were accounted for at the scene. The main wreckage came to rest largely upright, and included the cockpit, cabin area, fuselage, tailboom, engine, transmission, and main and tail rotors. All components were significantly damaged and deformed by impact forces. The "blue" main rotor blade was fractured near its root, and the outboard 11 feet of main rotor spar was located 50 feet from the main wreckage with no honeycomb or blade skin afterbody material attached.

Control continuity could not be established due to numerous fractures in the system, but all fractures exhibited features consistent with overload.

The airplane came to rest nose down, in a dense thicket of brush and low trees, wedged between tree trunks, and held in that position. All major components were accounted for at the scene, except for the right wing flap, aileron, and right landing gear wheel and tire assembly, which were located between the helicopter and airplane sites. Examination of the airplane revealed that the trailing edge of the right wing was impact-damaged. The flap and aileron hinges were significantly damaged and twisted, and the surrounding sheet metal displayed saw-tooth fractures, consistent with overload.

Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office: FAA Baltimore FSDO-07


Any witnesses should email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board make final inspections October 25 to a Cirrus SR22 airplane that was involved in a midair collision October 23 with a helicopter. The NTSB released its preliminary report about the crash, but a cause was still unclear.

Courtesy of WUSA9 
 An aerial image of the plane's crash site.