March 16, Lexington, Ky.: Cirrus SR-20


At about 1240 eastern time, a Cirrus SR-20 crashed near Lexington, but the pilot and pilot-rated passenger were not injured. The pilot planned to perform some practice instrument approaches in actual instrument conditions. The passenger was a friend of the pilot and also held a private pilot certificate. Both held instrument ratings. The pilot said he set the autopilot to the heading bug and was loading an approach into the airplanes GPS when he noticed the turn coordinator pegged to the left with no flag and the airplane losing altitude. He disengaged the autopilot and attempted to stabilize the airplane. The airplane was descending rapidly at a high airspeed. When it broke out of the clouds, the pilot tried to pull the airplane out of the dive and it ballooned back into the clouds to about 3,000 feet. The pilot deemed the instruments unreliable, saying the attitude indicator may have tumbled. The pilot decided to activate the aircrafts ballistic parachute and pulled the handle repeatedly, but nothing happened. They werent sure whether it had deployed, but decided to fly as if it had not. The airplane touched down in a field. Witnesses said the ballistic parachute deployed after ground contact. No instrument or autopilot failures were found on initial examination. An AD had been issued on the parachute system, and the accident airplane was in compliance. Another service bulletin on the parachute was issued two weeks before the crash and the airplane was not in compliance with that service bulletin. The pilot reported he had experienced the exact same type of turn coordinator failure on a previous occasion and the turn coordinator had been replaced on June 25, 2001, after 57 hours of operation.


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