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N901CD accident description

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Crash location 36.428056°N, 105.211111°W
Nearest city Angel Fire, NM
36.393088°N, 105.285009°W
4.8 miles away
Tail number N901CD
Accident date 28 May 2002
Aircraft type Cirrus Design Corporation SR-20
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On May 28, 2002, approximately 1630 mountain daylight time, a Cirrus Design Corporation SR-20 single-engine airplane, N901CD, registered to and operated by N901CD Flying Club of Duluth, Minnesota, was destroyed upon impact with mountainous terrain while climbing near Angel Fire, New Mexico. The commercial pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The cross-country flight departed from the Angel Fire Airport (AXX), near Angel Fire, New Mexico, at 1627, and was destined for Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Prior to departing Runway 35, the pilot made a radio call requesting the temperature. An employee of the Pierce Air, Inc., fixed base operator (FBO) answered the pilot's request with the current weather conditions. The employee observed the airplane takeoff without incident.

A witness, located northeast of AXX, reported to have observed the airplane fly overhead "really low at a relatively slow airspeed." The witness stated that he observed the airplane fly overhead as it was "trying to climb the mountain." As the airplane was flying parallel, "the [air]plane seemed to sound like any other [air]plane would, but as it got closer to the mountain and trees, it tried to elevate higher than where it was when it flew overhead. At that point, the [air]plane got lower with every second, then started to sputter as it was trying to elevate higher." As the witness observed the airplane, he further stated "it seemed the airplane was not gaining any elevation and was flying about the same height as it was when it passed overhead." The witness heard an explosion followed by a billowing cloud of smoke.

Another witness observed the airplane during run-up in preparation of a takeoff from the south end of the runway. The witness proceeded north on highway 434 to highway 64 then northeast. The witness observed the airplane "fly over so low, it got my attention." The witness observed the airplane as he traveled north and then east on Country Road B-36. The witness stated the "[air]plane seemed to be having trouble gaining altitude." The witness was a short distance from his home when he observed the airplane fly over very low past a ridge approximately one-quarter mile east, and within seconds saw black billowing smoke.

A third witness located northeast of AXX was indoors and heard the airplane fly overhead. He thought the airplane sounded "funny." The witness stepped outside and observed the airplane fly overhead and it "seemed to be missing or running erratically, maybe like sputtering while on a southerly heading." The witness went back inside and thought "the plane needed a tune-up or something."

A demonstration pilot for the manufacturer, who had flown the accident aircraft on several occassions, stated that he departed from Denver on a hot day with full fuel and ski equipment in the back, earlier that year. According to the pilot, the aircraft performed "as advertised." On departure from Denver, he was asked if he could expedite the climb through 8,000 or 9,000 feet for traffic. The pilot responded "negative" as he was climbing at about 300 feet per minute with the temperature gauge starting to peak.


The pilot was issued a commercial pilot certificate on July 30, 1971. On September 26, 2000, the pilot was issued a second-class medical certificate with a restriction to wear corrective lenses while operating an aircraft. The Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2) indicated the pilot had accumulated 1,350 hours total time, of which 100 hours were in the same make and model of the accident aircraft. The pilot completed his most recent biennial flight review on June 1, 2001, in a Cirrus SR-20.


The 2001-model Cirrus SR-20, serial number 1135, was a single-engine, four place airplane equipped with a Teledyne Continental Motors IO-360-ES engine, serial number 357304, that was rated at 200 horsepower. The airplane was equipped with a constant speed Hartzell three bladed propeller. The maximum gross weight of the aircraft was 3,000 lbs. The aircraft's total fuel capacity was 60.5 gallons, with 56 gallons usable fuel. The last annual inspection was accomplished on March 3, 2002, at a total airframe and engine time of 360 hours. The aircraft maintenance records were reported by the owners of the aircraft to be located in the aircraft and were destroyed by the post-impact fire. A fuel receipt was obtained at the FBO that revealed the airplane was refueled that afternoon with 37 gallons of fuel.


At 1153, the weather facility at Las Vegas, New Mexico, located 47 nautical miles southeast of AXX reported the winds calm, visibility 10 statute miles, scattered clouds at 1,100 feet, temperature 13 degrees Celsius, dew point 1 degree Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.19 inches of Mercury. The NTSB Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) calculated the density altitude (DA) to be 11,807 feet MSL.

An employee of the FBO reported the current weather conditions to the pilot at the time of departure to be winds from 110 degrees at 10 knots, temperature of approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter 30.28 inches of Mercury. The witness informed the pilot that the temperature reading was "from an instrument under a carport and therefore was in the shade." A witness provided a map of the aircraft's approximate flight path, and estimated it to be 7.1 nautical miles from takeoff to the place of impact.


The accident site was located approximately 4.3 miles east of the departure end of Runway 35. The aircraft wreckage was located on the side of a mountain in a heavily forested area. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates recorded at the accident site using a hand-held GPS unit were 36 degrees, 25.686 minutes North, and 105 degrees, 12.667 minutes West. The wreckage energy path measured approximately 70 feet in length on a magnetic heading of 076 degrees, coming to rest upright at an elevation of approximately 9,733 feet.

The aircraft was right side up, and was badly burned. The burn area was about 100 feet in diameter above and below the slope. The start of the debris path was marked by freshly broken tree branches approximately 70 feet above the ground. Within the debris path, all the major structural components and flight control surfaces for the airplane were identified. Flight control continuity was established.

The left flap was found aft and to the right of the aircraft; a portion of the left aft wing spar was found aft of the left flap. The right wing tip and a portion of the right wing skin was attached, and both were found in a tree branch aft of the aircraft. The left wing tip was found on the ground aft, left and down the slope from the fuselage.Both ailerons were found aft and down the slope from the fuselage. The complete nose gear, strut, fork, wheel and tire were found to the right and aft area of the fuselage; the right portion of the fuselage fork had broken off and was missing. The aft section of the nose gear wheel fairing was found burned just to the left and down slope from the aft fuselage. The 2" plastic plug used for accessing the air valve on the nose tire was found to the left and aft of the fuselage, down slope from the wreckage. The forward portion of the wheel fairing was not located.

The flap torque rod and flap actuator were located in the ashes. The pancake flap motor was separated from the rest of the flap assembly. The flap actuator proximity switches, wiring and aluminum cover were melted, and the aluminum gear case had also melted away leaving the steel ball screw and the steel tube that rides on the ball screw. A measurement was made from the flats of the steel tube to the top of the worm gear (=11") to determine how far the steel tube had been extended. This would indicate the position the flaps were in at the time of impact. The manufacturer disassembled an exemplar flap actuator and the components were measured. The measurement from the top of the ball screw tube was made to compare with the components found at the accident site. A flap actuator mounted in an SR-20 was actuated to duplicate the measurements made on the exemplar tube and bearing. It was determined that the flaps had been fully retracted at the time of the accident.

The left elevator had burned, and was located to the left of the aft fuselage, with the tip jutting upward toward the centerline of the fuselage. The right elevator tip was found on the ground; the main portion of the elevator was not found. The top and lower caps of the rudder were found to the aft of the fuselage, the rudder itself was not found.

The cockpit was completely destroyed by the fire; the ARNAV screen glass and frame remained and was the only instrument or radio, which could be recognized. One of the seat cores was found, with the full core depth visible on the side that was discernable. The two steel crew seat back frames were found in the cockpit area.

Both control yokes and the steel control linkages were located in the ashes of the cockpit. The control yoke carriages were not found. The center pulley gang was found; the pulleys were burned away. The steel rudder pedal tubes were recovered intact, with the two control cables still attached; the pedals were not found. On the outboard end of the left rudder tube, melted aluminum was visible flowing out of the end of the tube; this may have been all that was left of the tube insert and bracket for the left rudder tube.

The fuel selector was selected on left fuel tank; everything else that had been attached to the throttle quadrant was destroyed.

The engine exhibited severe impact and fire damage. The engine was separated from all of its mounts. The engine control cables were intact, but no longer connected to the engine. The controls at the engine were: engine at idle and mixture at idle cut off. The right and left magnetos were found and exhibited fire damage. The ignition harness was mostly consumed by the post-impact fire. The starter motor was separated from the starter adapter mounting pad. The fuel pump exhibited exterior fire damage. The vacuum pump exhibited fire damage and was still attached to the starter adapter drive pad. The oil filter canister was torn open, and the belt driven alternator was torn off its mounting bracket. The engine was shipped to Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) in Mobile, Alabama for further inspection.

The propeller flange was broken off in the front of the crankshaft and was located to the left of the fuselage next to the cabin area. Blade one exhibited twisting toward the direction of rotation, blade two exhibited very slight twisting toward the direction of rotation, and blade three exhibited a slight bend at the tip of the blade. The spinner exhibited signs of melting.

No mechanical or structural anomalies were discovered at the accident site that could have contributed to the accident.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Office of the Medical Investigator, State of New Mexico, of Albuquerque, New Mexico. No evidence of any preexisting disease that would have contributed to the accident was found.

Toxicological testing was performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology test was positive for Carbon Monoxide that was detected in the blood sample with a measurement of 12%. Cyanide was also detected in the blood at a level of 0.98 (ug/ml). No drugs or ethanol were detected.


The engine was examined on June 6, 2002 at Teledyne Continental Motors facility in Mobile, Alabama under supervision of an NTSB investigator. The engine exhibited severe impact and fire damage. No anomalies were found that "would suggest any engine problem prior to the accident."

Using the reported weather from AXX, the IIC calculated the density altitude (DA) to be 10,136 feet MSL at AXX at the time of departure. The DA at the accident site was calculated to be 11,807 feet MSL.

The manufacturer, Cirrus Design, calculated the following performance figures:

Takeoff Climb Gradient: 262 feet per nautical mile

Takeoff Rate of Climb: 406 feet per minute

Best Angle of Climb Airspeed (Vx): 80 kias = 93 ktas = 1.55 nautical miles per minute

Best Rate of Climb (Vy): 88 kias

With this data, the manufacturer calculated that if the airplane maintained a constant airspeed of 80 kias (Vx) after departure, it would have taken 4 minutes, 11 seconds to climb 1,700 feet. Further calculations revealed that at Vx, the airplane's approximate flight path would be 6.49 nautical miles.


The airplane was released to the owner's representative.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's decision to continue the flight into the rising mountainous terrain, and subsequent failure to maintain clearance with the trees. Contributing factors were the rising mountainous terrain, and the high density altitude,

© 2009-2020 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.