September 19, 2004, Peters, Calif. / Cirrus SR-22


At 1550 Pacific time, the airplane contacted trees in a walnut orchard during an emergency descent following an encounter with weather and a loss of control at about 16,000 feet MSL. The pilot deployed the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) and the airplane made a parachute landing into the walnut orchard. Neither the Instrument-rated Commercial pilot nor the single passenger aboard were injured; the airplane was substantially damaged. Instrument conditions prevailed; an instrument flight plan had been filed but not activated. The pilot subsequently reported that he was passing through 14,000 feet MSL with the autopilot set at 100 feet per minute (fpm) rate of climb while using supplemental oxygen. He heard a whirring sound and the nose pitched up. He disconnected the autopilot; the left wing dropped, and the airplane appeared to enter a spin. The pilot determined that the airplane would be in the overcast cloud layer before he could recover and decided to activate the CAPS. The CAPS deployment was successful; the airplane broke out of the clouds about 2500 feet AGL, and landed in a walnut grove. A convective SIGMET for intense thunderstorms was active in the vicinity where the airplane landed.


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