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N221DV accident description

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Crash location 41.584722°N, 70.542777°W
Nearest city Falmouth, MA
41.600108°N, 70.582807°W
2.3 miles away
Tail number N221DV
Accident date 01 Sep 2012
Aircraft type Cirrus Design Corp SR22
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On September 1, 2012, about 1105 eastern daylight time, a Cirrus SR22, N221DV, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees during a landing attempt at Falmouth Airpark (5B6), Falmouth, Massachusetts. The certificated flight instructor (CFI) was fatally injured, and the student pilot and the passenger were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the flight from Tweed-New Haven Airport (HVN), New Haven, Connecticut. The instructional flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Due to the extent and severity of his injuries, the student pilot first provided a statement through his attorney on March 31, 2013. At that time, he stated that on the day of the accident, "the flight was conducted in the same manner as previous occasions." The student pilot had earlier advised the flight school that he and his wife wanted to fly to 5B6 to spend Labor Day weekend. When they arrived at the flight school, they met the CFI, who did the flight planning while the student pilot performed the airplane preflight inspection.

When the CFI was ready, they boarded the airplane with the student pilot in the left seat, the CFI in the right seat, and the student pilot's wife in one of the rear seats. The student pilot was manipulating the controls and performing radio communications at the direction of the CFI.

The flight to 5B6 was uneventful. The student pilot remembers obtaining weather information approaching Falmouth from, he believes, Hyannis, south of Falmouth. The CFI directed that he enter the landing pattern at 5B6 by flying over the airport at 3,000 feet and then descending to enter the downwind for a right traffic pattern to runway 7. They conducted the landing checklist before turning onto the base leg.

As in the past, the student pilot was flying the airplane with the CFI's hands and feet on the controls. The student pilot remembered making a right turn to enter the base leg of the approach and turning onto final. The airplane cleared the trees at the approach end of runway 7 when the CFI said that the airplane was "low and slow." The student pilot did not remember much thereafter other than then being "jounced around a bit" in the airplane. He did not remember "seeking" the runway or touching down on or near the runway. He did not know if the CFI took control of the airplane, or if he continued to fly it, nor did he recall the CFI saying anything else to him other than they were "low and slow." The next thing the student pilot remembered was the airplane hitting trees, breaking up and coming to rest. He did not realize that there was a fire until he saw the skin on his hands was coming off. He could not unfasten his seat belt but his wife had been able to do so and had left the airplane. He called for help and she returned and unbuckled him and pulled him from the burning wreckage.

In response to additional questions posed through his attorney, and after his release from the hospital, the student pilot recalled that the CFI had not said that they were low and slow. Instead, the CFI had pointed to the airspeed indicator, "to indicate a slower than desired landing approach speed. He did not verbalize any words; he just pointed at the electronic display which I understood to mean that he wanted me to note our speed which was 69 knots, a slightly low speed. I corrected that condition…I was still in the hospital and heavily medicated when I initially spoke to [my attorney], and do not recall our exact conversation."

The student pilot further noted that his wife was also wearing headphones, and did not recall any conversation between himself and the CFI.

According to the student pilot's wife, her first awareness of something unusual was the crash itself. She realized that she was standing in fire in the airplane on the ground. She recalled unbuckling her husband and pulling him out of the plane with her right hand. The fire was so intense that they had to exit the airplane, and she shouted that the CFI was still in the airplane to the people who began arriving at the site.

The wife also believed that her husband was flying the airplane, with the CFI providing instruction. She did not know if the CFI had his hands on any of the airplane's controls at any point that day, but in the past had seen him do so.

According to several witnesses, the airplane completed a right downwind for runway 7. The final approach over trees was described as "unstable, with rocking wings," and one witness asked another if he thought the airplane was going to go around.

Exact recollections differed, but in general, witnesses recalled that as the airplane neared the runway, the airplane's rate of descent increased, and there were some additions and reductions in power. The airplane started veering to the left, there was an addition of power, and the left wing almost hit the ground. The airplane then touched down in the grass to the left of the runway, went through the last section of a wooden fence, entered some woods and burst into flames.

In an email, one witness stated, "Subject aircraft was on a short final when he came in over the trees…he was low and slow…he got in to a high sink rate and he went to full power and pulled the nose up abruptly about 30 to 40 degrees nose up and the plane veered to the left and went in to the trees and exploded on impact."

In an interview, one witness stated that at the crash site, the student pilot repeatedly said that he was "sorry I did that."


The CFI, age 24, held a commercial pilot certificate with single engine land, multi-engine land, and instrument-airplane ratings. He also held a flight instructor certificate with single engine land, multi-engine land and instrument-airplane ratings. The CFI's latest FAA first class medical certificate was dated May 1, 2012.

The CFI completed "Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot" training on September 29, 2011.

A copy of the CFI's logbook entries through August 13, 2012, listed 1,519 total flight hours, with 1,407 hours of single engine flight time, and 1,002 hours of instructor time.

The CFI's fiancée, who had moved to the local area in preparation for their wedding, was asked about the CFI's recent history leading up to the accident. According to the fiancée, she worked as a nurse during the night shift, and because of their differing schedules, and not wanting to disturb each other's sleep, she was sleeping on the couch while he slept in the bedroom. She saw the CFI on the morning of the day before the accident, but because of their work schedules, she didn't see him that night. The day of the accident, he had left for work prior to her waking up.

CFI Employer

According to the employer's attorney, "Robinson Flight, LLC ('Robinson Flight'), and Robinson Aviation, Inc. ('Robinson Aviation'), are two separate and distinct entities with their own legal status. Robinson Flight is a subsidiary company of Robinson Aviation – it is a single-member limited liability company with its single member being Robinson Aviation [Flight?]. Robinson Aviation is a C-corporation with [one person] serving as the President and Treasurer. Those who actually manage Robinson Aviation are not necessarily the same as those who manage Robinson Flight. Robinson Flight maintains its own separate payroll, has its own checks, and pays rent to Robinson Aviation. [The CFI] was employed by and paid by Robinson Flight."

"All of the time that was billed for the [student pilot's] flights was for instructional purposes." In addition, "Robinson Aviation was unaware of the passenger onboard. Officers of Robinson Flight also were unaware that there was to be a passenger on board."

CFI Student Pass Rate

According to FAA records, seven of the CFI's student pilots attempted the private pilot practical (flight) test. Of the seven, five failed the test on their initial try, but all of those passed their test on their second try.

Four of the five former students who initially failed were able to be contacted. None of the four indicated any instructional lapses for their initial failures, and none of the failures involved landing pattern work or normal landings. Two of the pilots attributed their initial performance to nerves, one due to fatigue because a family member had returned home the night before, and one included weather as a factor and was off required altitude. Most involved navigation. The designated examiner for the fifth student pilot confirmed that his failure also did not involve landing pattern work or normal landings.

When asked about the CFI's low initial pass rate, or if any corrective actions were taken, the attorney for the flight school responded, "Robinson Flight disagrees with the above characterizations. Robinson Flight is interested in seeing the basis for these conclusions. Robinson Flight saw no reason to take corrective action."

CFI – Students' Perceptions

From the four student pilots previously noted and one additional student who switched to another airplane make and model in the midst of training (she didn't continue with the CFI because he wasn't qualified in that airplane at the time):

"Very mellow and relaxed in the cockpit. He was a good pilot, a good instructor, good instincts, who always had a plan, while other instructors would just show up to fly. He always had something he wanted to accomplish during the flight." He was also always alert; and the student pilot felt safe with him.

"The best of all of them." He was the best rounded, patient, and made the student pilot feel comfortable; "very thorough and meticulous."

Always professional in the airplane; "encouraging," and loved to fly; always at the airport.

A "very good instructor" who knew what he wanted to do, how to do it, and then did it. The student pilot enjoyed flying with him, felt no fear with him and was comfortable with him as an instructor.

He was a "pretty good instructor," especially compared to another instructor, and he had a lot more confidence in the student pilot. She felt very comfortable with him; he explained everything very well.

CFI and the Destination Airport

According to the attorney for the flight school, when asked if the CFI expressed any concerns about flying to 5B6, particularly in regards to the winds/crosswinds, the response was "Not to the knowledge of Robinson Flight."

The accident student pilot was asked the same thing through his attorney and responded, "He did not express any concerns whatsoever."

CFI Workload

According to the attorney for the flight school, "[The CFI] did not have a set schedule or general hours for Robinson Flight; he was responsible for setting and managing his own schedule including flights, ground school, and office hours. [The CFI] very rarely worked more than 40 hours per week."

When asked if there was a contract to confirm the working arrangement, the attorney replied, "There was no written contract or written instruction explicitly stating that [the CFI] was responsible for setting and managing his own schedule. That was the practice that was acceptable to both Robinson Flight and [the CFI]."

In addition, "[the CFI] was permitted to, and from time to time did, voluntarily stay in the office on his own accord to answer phones in an attempt to garner more business. Such voluntary office hours, however, were not reflected in [his] hours or pay."

When asked about the CFI's work schedule, his fiancée stated that he worked as many hours as he could during the week to maximize his opportunities to fly. His normal work schedule was 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and sometimes he would fly and sometimes he would not. When asked if there were any fatigue issues, the fiancée stated that there were none that she knew of. She also stated that she would say to him that he was getting worked too hard, but he never complained.

When asked if there were any other issues at work, the fiancée stated that there were no issues that she knew of.

CFI – Accident Student Pilot Relations

According to the fiancée, the CFI had a good rapport with all his students.

When asked about the relationship between the CFI and the student pilot/owner of the airplane, she stated that it was a very good one. She did not hear anything negative about student pilot and even if there was something, the CFI was professional in that he never said anything about any of his students.

The fiancée also stated that the CFI had a "great" relationship with the student pilot. In fact, the student pilot let the CFI use his airplane when he wanted, as long as he put fuel in it. About 2 weeks prior to the accident, the CFI and fiancée flew together in the airplane to Ohio to get their wedding license.

Accident Student Pilot

The student pilot, age 55, stated that he had 117 hours of flight time at the time of the accident, and that his logbook was destroyed in the postcrash fire. His FAA third class medical certificate was issued on February 7, 2012.

He also stated that he stated that he started taking flight training at "Robinson Aviation," and was introduced to a Cirrus SR20 as well as other types of airplanes. Since he was interested in buying an airplane, he researched what was available and decided on a Cirrus SR22 based on its performance, load carrying ability and utility. When he purchased the accident airplane, he had accumulated about 17 hours of dual instruction and continued to take flight instruction at Robinson, where he was assigned the accident CFI as his primary instructor.

The student pilot further noted that most of his flight instruction began with a ground briefing where the CFI would explain what they would be doing, including the maneuvers to be performed. The student pilot would perform the preflight inspection of the airplane.

The student pilot would sit in the left seat, and the CFI in the right seat. Throughout each lesson, whether they were maneuvering or flying in the traffic pattern, the CFI would keep his hands on the controls while the student pilot flew the airplane, "meaning he would keep the right-hand side stick in his right hand, his feet on the rudder pedals and his left hand on the throttle below my hand." During the lessons there were many occasions where the CFI would take control of the airplane if he felt he should do so, then would typically explain the reason for doing so and, if appropriate, have the student pilot perform the maneuver again.

On occasion, the student pilot and his wife would want to go somewhere overnight or for a weekend, and the only way they could use the airplane was to hire "Robinson Aviation" to transport them. The accident CFI would fly those trips. They would meet at HVN at Robinson facilities where the CFI would take care of all flight planning duties, and the student pilot would typically perform the preflight inspection. During the flight, the student pilot would sit in the left seat with the CFI in the right seat and the student pilot's wife in one of the rear seats. Upon arrival at the destination airport, the student pilot would fly the traffic pattern and make the landing, again with the CFI providing direction and keeping his hands and feet on the controls.

After deplaning at the intermediate destination, the CFI would then fly the airplane back to HVN, and when the student pilot and his wife were ready to return home, the CFI would return to pick them up. The flight back would then be conducted in the same manner as the outbound flight. The student pilot paid Robinson for each of the flights.

The student pilot's wife confirmed that there had been a number of occasions where the CFI had flown with them to a destination, then fly the airplane back to HVN and return to pick them up again for the return trip home. It was her understanding that the CFI was providing instruction to her husband and that his credit card was billed by Robinson Aviation.

When asked why, with 117 hours of flight time, the student pilot had not taken his private pilot test yet, he replied through his attorney, "He was not in a rush to obtain his private pilot certificate and believed that the additiona

NTSB Probable Cause

The flight instructor’s inadequate remedial action. Contributing to the accident was the student pilot’s poor control of the airplane during the approach.

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