Accident Cirrus SR22 N122ES, 23 Oct 2014
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 170607
 
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Date:23-OCT-2014
Time:15:37
Type:Silhouette image of generic SR22 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Cirrus SR22
Owner/operator:Graeves Auto
Registration: N122ES
MSN: 2008
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:3
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Category:Accident
Location:1 mile SW of Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), MD -   United States of America
Phase: Approach
Nature:Private
Departure airport:Cleveland, TN (RZR)
Destination airport:Frederick, MD (FDK)
Investigating agency: NTSB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Narrative:
A Cirrus SR22 airplane, N122ES, operated by a private individual, 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), Maryland, USA. The airplane departed controlled flight after the collision, the ballistic parachute system was deployed, and the airplane landed nose-down in a thicket of low trees and brush. The helicopter also departed controlled flight, descended vertically, and was destroyed by impact forces at ground contact. The private pilot on board the airplane was not injured, and his passenger sustained a minor injury. The flight instructor, commercial pilot, and a passenger in the helicopter were fatally injured. 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 an instructional flight about 1535.

A review of radar and voice communications revealed that the accident airplane pilot first contacted the nonradar-equipped tower when the airplane was 10 miles from the airport and that the local controller (LC) then acknowledged the pilot's transmission and instructed him to contact the tower when he was 3 miles from the airport. At this time, the LC was also handling two helicopters in the traffic pattern, one airplane conducting practice instrument approaches to a runway that intersected the runway assigned to the accident airplane, another airplane inbound from the southeast, and a business jet with its instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance on request. About 1 minute after the accident airplane pilot first contacted the LC, the LC began handling the accident helicopter and cleared it for takeoff. One minute later, the controller issued the business jet pilot an IFR clearance. When the accident airplane was 3 miles from the airport, the pilot reported the airplane's position to the controller, but the controller missed the call because she was preoccupied with the clearance read-back from the business jet pilot. About 1 minute later, the controller instructed the accident airplane pilot to enter the left downwind leg of the traffic pattern on a 45-degree angle and issued a landing clearance. She advised that there were three helicopters "below" the airplane in the traffic pattern, and the pilot replied that he had two of the helicopters in sight.

Data downloaded from the airplane and witnesses on the ground and in the air indicated that, as the airplane entered the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, it flew through the accident helicopter's rotor system at the approximate point where the helicopter would have turned left from the crosswind to the downwind leg. Because of a specific advisory transmitted on the tower radio frequency advising of traffic on the downwind, the pilot of each accident aircraft was or should have been aware of the other. A witness in the helicopter directly behind the accident helicopter had a similar field of view as the accident helicopter, and he reported that he acquired both accident aircraft in his scan before the collision. Given this statement and that the accident helicopter had two commercial pilots in the cockpit, the pilots should have had the situational awareness to understand the conflict potential based on the airplane's position reports. Although the airplane was equipped with a traffic advisory system, its capabilities could have been limited by antenna/airframe obstruction or an inhibition of the audio alert by the airplane's flap position.

The airplane's data indicated that the collision occurred at an altitude of about 1,100 ft mean sea level (msl). The published traffic pattern altitude (TPA) for light airplanes was 1,300 ft msl. Although several different helicopter TPAs were depicted in locally produced pamphlets and posters and reportedly discussed at various airport meetings, there was no published TPA for helicopters in the airport/facility directory or in the tower's standard operating procedures. According to the Federal Aviation Administration's Aeronautical Information Manual, in the absence of a published TPA, the TPA for helicopters was 500 ft above ground level; therefore, the appropriate TPA for helicopters at the accident airport was about 800 ft msl. The lack of an official helicopter TPA, which was published after the accident, significantly reduced the potential for positive traffic conflict resolution.

Review of the airport procedures, tower capabilities, and the controller's actions revealed no specific departure from proper procedures. Because the tower was not equipped with radar equipment, all of the sequencing and obtaining of traffic information had to be done visually. This would have been especially difficult at the accident airport due to the local terrain


Probable Cause: The failure of the helicopter pilots and the airplane pilot to maintain an adequate visual lookout for known traffic in the traffic pattern, which resulted in a midair collision. Contributing to the accident were the airplane pilot's descent below the published airplane traffic pattern altitude (TPA) and the helicopter pilot's climb above the proper helicopter TPA as prescribed in the Federal Aviation Administration's Aeronautical Information Manual for airports without published helicopter TPAs. Also contributing to the accident were the lack of a published helicopter TPA, the absence of radar equipment in the tower, and the controller's inadequate task prioritization.

Sources:

NTSB
FAA register: http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=122ES

https://flightaware.com/photos/view/269247-ba60cab3b21782a672f019b400

Accident investigation:
cover
  
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration:
Download report: Final report
Location


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
23-Oct-2014 22:27 Geno Added
23-Oct-2014 22:46 Geno Updated [Source, Narrative]
24-Oct-2014 21:05 Geno Updated [Nature, Source]
25-Apr-2016 16:46 Aerossurance Updated [Source, Narrative]
29-May-2016 23:08 Aerossurance Updated [Narrative]
21-Dec-2016 19:28 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
30-Nov-2017 19:28 ASN Update Bot Updated [Operator, Total fatalities, Other fatalities, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
09-May-2020 11:43 harro Updated [Total fatalities, Other fatalities, Location, Source, Narrative]

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