21 February 2010

Midair Collision Between a Cirrus SR20 and a Glider Towplane

On February 6, 2010, a Cirrus SR20 airplane (N825BC) collided with a Piper PA-25-235 airplane (N8718L), while the Piper was conducting glider tow operations with , a Schweizer SGS 2-32 glider (N2472W), near Boulder, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and all three aircraft were operating without flight plans. The pilot and sole occupant aboard the Piper was killed as was the pilot and passenger aboard the Cirrus.

The pilot of the glider saw the Cirrus approaching and was able to disengage the tow rope just prior to the collision. Although the glider pilot flew through a fireball caused by the collision, he was able to land without further incident. The glider was undamaged, and no one on board that aircraft was injured. The Piper and Schweizer departed Boulder Municipal Airport (KBDU), Boulder, Colorado, as a glider tow flight approximately 1:15 pm, roughly 12 minutes before the accident. The Cirrus aircraft had departed Erie Municipal Airport (KEIK), Erie, Colorado, at approximately 12:45 pm.

According to a statement taken from the pilot of the glider, the tow plane and glider were in a climb attitude, on an approximate heading of west. The Cirrus was heading south.

Multiple witnesses heard the collision between the two airplanes and observed the post collision state of both airplanes. The Cirrus airplane was observed to descend under the canopy of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) while on fire. Debris from both airplanes was spread over a 1.5-mile area with components of the Piper at the north most end of the debris field and the main wreckage of the Cirrus at the southern most end of the debris field. Both airplanes were destroyed.

In the interview below from the Today Show, the pilot and two passengers from the glider provide a sense of just how close this was to being an accident involving three crashed aircraft. Also included are portions of witness videos that show the burning Cirrus descending to the ground by parachute.

According to the NTSB, the Cirrus series of aircraft have been involved in at least65 fatal crashes in the US and around the world between 1992 and the fatal crash in Boulder.

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