May 13, 2024 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Lessons Learned: Cirrus SR22, Loss of Control and Collision

Cirrus SR22

Loss of control and collision with terrain involving Cirrus SR22, VH-XGR, at Bankstown Airport, New South Wales.

A Cirrus SR22 landing accident at Bankstown Airport highlights both the hazards of inadvertent discharge of rocket-propelled parachute recovery systems to first responders and the challenges of conducting a go-around to recover from an unstable landing.

The ATSB (Australian Transport Safety Bureau) investigation report from the accident details that at the end of a private flight from Southport, Queensland on March 17, 2023, the SR22, with a single pilot on board, sank during landing and bounced along the runway for about five seconds, before rapidly entering a steep climbing turn to the left, up to about 40 ft off the ground.

As its bank angle exceeded 90°, the Cirrus SR22 aircraft dropped onto the left wing and nose, coming to a rest upside down on the grass between runways.

The ATSB found that in the early stages of a go-around from the unstable landing, the pilot was unable to counter the substantial torque effect associated with high engine power, low airspeed, and high pitch angle, resulting in loss of control and collision with terrain.

Emergency services extricated the pilot from the wreckage, but the pilot later died in hospital due to injuries sustained in the accident.

“The site commander was initially unaware that the aircraft was equipped with a rocket-propelled parachute, which was subsequently made safe from inadvertent activation by a Cirrus-qualified maintenance engineer,” ATSB Director Transport Safety Stuart Macleod said.

While the aircraft’s Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) is credited with saving a number of lives, Mr. Macleod noted it presents a serious post-accident hazard where it has not been deployed and the aircraft is damaged.

“If the rocket is inadvertently activated, anyone in its path would be seriously or fatally injured,” he said. 

While Cirrus has issued an Advisory Guide for First Responders to provide awareness of CAPS and to reduce the risk of inadvertent post-accident activation, the ATSB found the training and education provided by Cirrus on the hazards of CAPS post-accident had limited reach, and that the placards installed on the accident aircraft type did not clearly communicate the danger or provide access to safety information. 

Since the accident, Cirrus has enhanced the external placarding on two new aircraft models (including the SF50). It is also reviewing the possibility of enhancing the placard that was certified with its SR20, SR22 and SR22T aircraft.

Mr. Macleod noted the investigation also highlights that a go-around to recover from an unstable landing is more dynamic and presents a greater challenge than a go-around on approach. 

“The go-around procedure requires careful and coordinated flight control and power application, in particular when conducted in the landing phase,” he said.

“Pilots should consider the increased challenge presented by making a go-around decision to recover from an unstable landing, rather than an earlier go-around decision made on approach.”

The investigation also highlights that pilots of single-engine aircraft with relatively high-power engines need to be aware of the potential for significant torque effect and loss of control associated with high engine power, low airspeed, and high pitch attitude.

Read the ATSB publication “Hazards at aviation accident sites.”

Read the full ATSB report: Loss of control and collision with terrain involving Cirrus SR22, VH-XGR, at Bankstown Airport, New South Wales, on 17 March 2023, publication date: 3/20/2024.

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