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N621PH accident description

Minnesota map... Minnesota list
Crash location 44.406667°N, 96.081389°W
Nearest city Arco, MN
44.383576°N, 96.183648°W
5.3 miles away
Tail number N621PH
Accident date 11 Dec 2005
Aircraft type Cirrus Design Corp. SR22
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On December 11, 2005, at 1716 central standard time, a Cirrus SR22, N621PH, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed during an in-flight collision with terrain near Arco, Minnesota. The flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. Instrument meteorological and marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site at the time. The pilot and 2 passengers sustained fatal injuries. The flight departed Wayne Municipal Airport, Wayne (LCG), Nebraska, at 1608, with an intended destination of Flying Cloud Airport (FCM), Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar and voice communication data were provided by Sioux Falls approach control and Minneapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). Additional flight data was downloaded from the Multi Function Display (MFD) unit on-board the accident aircraft.

An individual representing N621PH contacted Columbus Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) about 1522 and requested a pre-flight briefing for the route from LCG to FCM. The proposed flight was to be conducted under visual flight rules (VFR) and was estimated to depart within 30 minutes of the call.

The briefer informed the caller that VFR flight was not recommended due to an Aeronautical Meteorological Information (AIRMET) weather advisory for instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions over north central Iowa and southwestern Minnesota. The briefer noted current reports of IFR conditions at Estherville (EST), Iowa, Fairmont (FRM), Minnesota, and Windom (MVM), Minnesota. Detailed weather information is contained in the meteorological conditions section of this factual report.

Data indicated that the accident flight departed LCG at 1608 and proceeded northeast. The aircraft's course changed from northeast to northwest about 1625. At 1636, the pilot of the accident airplane contacted Sioux Falls approach control and requested VFR flight following en route to FCM via FSD and Montevideo (MVE), Minnesota. ATC issued a discrete transponder code and identified the flight on radar at 3,500 feet mean sea level (msl), about 30 nautical miles (nm) south-southeast of FSD.

The flight continued on the northwesterly course until 1642, when the aircraft turned to a northerly course directly toward FSD. The flight was approximately 22 nm south of FSD at that time. When the aircraft reached a point approximately 8 nm south of FSD the pilot requested to proceed direct to MVE. The request was approved and the aircraft proceeded on a northeasterly course toward MVE.

As the flight approached the limit of FSD approach airspace to the northeast, the controller contacted Minneapolis ARTCC to inquire about a handoff. The Minneapolis ARTCC controller was unable to accept the handoff, noting that radar coverage would not be possible in that sector at the altitude the aircraft was operating. The FSD controller attempted to contact the accident flight to terminate VFR flight following five times between 1701 and 1704. There was no response from the aircraft.

At 1656, the pilot contacted the flight watch position at Princeton AFSS. The pilot informed the briefer that the flight was approximately 10 miles northeast of FSD en route to MVE. He requested weather advisories along the proposed route of flight. The briefer provided an advisory for IFR conditions for southwestern portions of Minnesota due to the possibility of light snow. The briefer noted that MVE had been reporting light snow, but that the most recent observation indicated "unrestricted visibility" and an overcast cloud ceiling at 2,000 feet above ground level (agl).

At 1707, the pilot contacted Minneapolis ARTCC. He stated that he "had switched off the radio inadvertently," and requested VFR flight following to MVE. He reported that the aircraft was 25 miles east of Brookings Very-High-Frequency Omni Range (VOR) radio navigational station at 2,500 feet msl. He noted that he was still on the discrete transponder code assigned by FSD approach.

At 1708, the Minneapolis ARTCC controller replied: "Okay at twenty five hundred . . . I see ya out there on radar but I'm going to lose ya in just a bit . . . besides I'll probably lose ya on the frequency at that altitude also ah . . . so do you want to go up for advisories or ah go back to your twelve hundred code and maintain VFR." The pilot replied: "Okay I best . . . I better go back to twelve hundred then just go VFR . . . cause I got clouds above me."

No further voice communications were received from the accident aircraft.

The radar track data indicated that the pilot switched to the 1200 transponder code about 1709. After that point, the aircraft continued on a northeast course until approximately 1710:07, when the airplane turned to an easterly course. The track data showed that the airplane returned to a northeast course about 1711:08. At that time, the transponder altitude return was 2,500 feet msl.

Between 1711:08 and 1715:09, the radar data indicated the airplane continued northeast bound, however, the altitude returns decreased from 2,500 feet msl to 2,100 feet msl. About 1714:09, the aircraft's track turned to the north until 1715:09. The altitude returns remained at 2,100 during this time period.

According to the radar track data, about 1715:09, the aircraft entered a climbing, right turn, and continued in that turn until the final radar data point at 1716:20. In addition, the turn radius decreased during the course of the turn. Altitude returns increased from 2,100 feet msl at 1715:09, to 2,800 feet msl at 1716:20.

No further radar returns attributable to the accident aircraft were recorded.

A local resident reported hearing an aircraft about 1730. She also reported that she thought she heard an "explosion" and "glass breaking."

An emergency locator transmitter signal was detected by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center via the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (SARSAT) network at 1858. The local Civil Air Patrol detachment was notified and subsequently located the aircraft about 0030 on December 12th.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating, issued on January 17, 2001. He held a second-class medical certificate issued on October 20, 2004, with a limitation that corrective lenses be worn. According to FAA data, he did not have an instrument rating.

The pilot purchased the accident airplane in November 2005, approximately one month prior to the accident. He completed the transition-training course for new Cirrus owners conducted by the University of North Dakota on November 30, 2005. He logged 26.8 hours in the SR22, all in the accident airplane, during the course. All of this was logged as dual flight instruction. At the completion of the course, the pilot was given a current flight review endorsement. His total flight time in SR22 aircraft at the time of the accident was 41.6 hours.

The pilot's logbook was reviewed. Flight data downloaded from the airplane's MFD unit included three flights prior to the accident flight, which were not noted in the logbook. Based on the logbook entries and MFD data, the pilot had accumulated 271.9 hours total flight time. Five hours of flight time were logged in single-engine seaplanes. All of the remaining flight time was in single-engine land airplanes.

The pilot had logged 3.4 hours and 44.2 hours of actual and simulated instrument flight time, respectively. Total logged night flight time was 19.2 hours. Flight time in high performance airplanes totaled 49.6 hours, according to logbook entries and MFD data.


The accident airplane was a 2005 model year Cirrus SR22 (serial number 1481). The airplane was a single-engine, low wing airplane of predominantly composite (fiberglass) construction.

The airplane was powered by a Continental Motors IO-550-N (27) fuel-injected engine (serial number 917753). It was equipped with a 3-blade, constant speed Hartzell propeller.

The airplane was issued an airworthiness certificate on June 15, 2005, as a new aircraft. An annual inspection was completed on November 2, 2005. The aircraft had accumulated a total flight time of 265.3 hours at the time of that inspection. Total time on the aircraft at the time of the accident was 317.8 hours.


The Marshall Airport-Ryan Field (MML) Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS), located 15 miles east-northeast of the accident site, at 1715, recorded: Wind from 100 degrees at 7 knots; 10 statute miles (sm) visibility; few clouds at 400 feet agl; overcast clouds at 800 feet agl; temperature and dew point were -4 and -6 degrees Celsius, respectively; altimeter 29.74 inches of mercury.

The Pipestone Airport (PQN) AWOS, located about 25 miles south-southwest of the accident site, at 1657, recorded: Wind from 340 degrees at 16 knots, gusting to 23 knots; 10 sm visibility; overcast clouds at 1,400 feet agl; temperature and dew point were 3 and 2 degrees Celsius, respectively; altimeter 29.68 inches of mercury.

At 1717, the PQN AWOS recorded: Wind from 340 degrees at 15 knots, gusting to 21 knots; 10 sm visibility; overcast clouds at 1,200 feet agl; temperature and dew point were 3 and 2 degrees Celsius, respectively; altimeter 29.69 inches of mercury.

Weather conditions at the Sioux Falls - Foss Field (FSD), located 65 miles southwest of the accident site, at 1656, were recorded as: Wind from 310 degrees at 16 knots; visibility 10 sm; overcast clouds at 3,600 feet agl; temperature and dew point were 3 degrees and 0 degrees, respectively; altimeter 29.72 inches of mercury.

Conditions at the Sioux Gateway Airport (SUX), located 125 miles south of the accident site, at 1552, recorded: Wind from 310 degrees at 19 knots, gusting to 26 knots; 10 sm visibility; clear skies; temperature and dew point were 6 degrees and 1 degree Celsius, respectively; altimeter 29.76 inches of mercury. SUX was located 28 miles northeast of the departure airport, LCG.

Conditions along the originally proposed route of flight from LCG to FCM were provided by the AFSS briefer during preflight weather briefing.

The Estherville Municipal Airport (EST) Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), at 1517, recorded: Wind from 130 degrees at 8 knots; 10 sm visibility; broken clouds at 800 feet agl; overcast clouds at 1,200 feet agl; temperature and dew point were -4 and -6 degrees Celsius, respectively; altimeter 29.70 inches of mercury.

The Fairmont Municipal Airport (FRM) AWOS, at 1515, recorded: Wind from 130 degrees at 8 knots; 7 sm visibility; broken clouds at 100 feet agl; overcast clouds at 1,400 feet agl; temperature and dew point were -6 and -7 degrees, respectively; altimeter 29.73 inches of mercury.

The Windom Municipal Airport (MWM) AWOS, at 1515, recorded: Wind from 110 degrees at 8 knots; 5 sm visibility with mist; overcast clouds at 700 feet agl; temperature and dew point were both -4 degrees Celsius; altimeter 29.66 inches of mercury.

The area forecast for western and southern Minnesota current at the time of the accident was issued at 1345, and was valid until 0200 on December 12. The forecast for southwestern Minnesota called for overcast ceilings between 1,000 and 2,000 feet agl; cloud tops between 8,000 feet and 10,000 feet msl; occasional light snow and mist, which was forecast to end between 2000 and 2300.

The area forecast for the remaining portions of western and southern Minnesota called for broken to overcast ceilings between 2,000 and 3,000 feet agl, and cloud tops at 10,000 feet msl. A chance of light snow was also forecast over that area.

A routine terminal forecast for FSD was issued at 1130, and was valid from 1200 until 1200 on January 12. The forecast noted, beginning at 1400, winds from 300 degrees at 14 knots, gusting to 20 knots, and broken clouds at 6,000 feet agl. From 1700 through 2100, the forecast called for winds from 310 degrees at 14 knots, and scattered or temporarily broken clouds at 3,000 feet agl.

An amended terminal forecast for FSD was issued at 1551 and was valid beginning at 1600. The forecast noted winds from 300 degrees at 15 knots, scattered or temporarily broken clouds at 2,500 feet agl, and overcast clouds at 4,000 feet agl until 2000. From 2000, the forecast noted winds from 300 degrees at 8 knots and overcast clouds at 2,500 feet.

AIRMET Sierra (Update 5) was issued at 1445 and was valid until 2100. The AIRMET noted the possibility of IFR conditions - ceilings below 1,000 feet agl and/or visibilities less than 3 sm in clouds, precipitation or mist - east of a line from Quincy (UIN), Illinois, to 20 miles southeast of FSD to 50 miles north of Redwood Falls (RWF), Minnesota. The conditions were expected spread east southeastward and to continue beyond 2100.

Winds aloft data for the accident site were obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The data was based on soundings taken at 1800 (0000Z on December 12, 2005). A copy of the winds aloft data is included in the docket material associated with this report.

According to United States Naval Observatory data, sunset occurred at 1645 at the site on the day of the accident. Civil twilight ended at 1719.


The airplane impacted an agricultural field approximately 5 miles northeast of Arco, Minnesota. The site was located at 44 degrees 24.397 minutes north latitude, 096 degrees 04.880 minutes west longitude. Elevation at the accident site was approximately 1,581 feet. The airplane was oriented on an approximate magnetic heading of 166 degrees.

First responders to the accident site reported that the snow cover surrounding the aircraft was undisturbed at the time of their arrival on scene.

The airplane came to rest upright. The main wreckage consisted of all major aircraft components. The upper half of the engine cowling, and the cabin doors were separated from the fuselage. They came to rest approximately 18 feet south of the main fuselage - in front of the aircraft relative to its heading.

The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) had deployed. The fuselage cover for the CAPS system was separated and lying approximately 10 feet west of the main wreckage. The cockpit activation handle was in the stowed position at the accident site. The position of the handle and damage to the airframe were consistent with the system being deployed as a result of the impact sequence and not as an intentional activation by the pilot.

The engine and propeller were imbedded about 4 feet into the ground. They were oriented approximately 30 degrees relative to the terrain with the rear of the engine higher than the nose. The propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft.

The cockpit and cabin sustained extensive damage. The cabin roof was separated from the lower fuselage at the doorposts and rear fuselage. The roof section was resting upright and dislocated to the right relative to the fuselage.

The pilot control yokes exhibited damage consistent with impact forces. The elevator control cable attachment fittings remained secured to the torque tube bell cranks. The bell crank arms were bent but otherwise intact. The bell crank fitting remained secured to the elevator control torque tube. The rudder control cable attachment fittings remained secured to the rudder pedal torque tube. The rudder pedals and torque tubes sustained damage consistent with impact forces.

The fuselage was separated from the empennage across the upper half of the airframe near the baggage area. The empennage was intact aft of that point. The elevator and rudder flight control surfaces remained attached to the airframe at their respective hinge points. Control continuity was confirmed from the elevator and rudder to the aft cabin.

The wings were in position relative to the fuselage, however they were partially separated and dislocated. The wing chord line was oriented at an approximate angle of 30 degrees relative to the terrain. The leading edge was crushed aft along the entire length of both wings. The upper wi

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's inadvertent cruise flight into instrument meteorological conditions, and his failure to maintain control of the aircraft after experiencing spatial disorientation. Factors associated with the accident are the pilot's improper planning/decision making, low ceilings, a dark night, and spatial disorientation.

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