A Cirrus engineer was killed when his Cirrus SR22 G6 crashed into the ice-covered St. Louis River four minutes after take-off on Feb. 24. The NTSB said the plane was on an approximate four-mile final approach for the destination runway when it suddenly pitched down about 30 degrees.RELATED STORY:Cirrus Chief Engineer flying SR22 killed in icy crash after takeoff
The purpose of the accident flight was for the pilot to reposition the aircraft from Duluth International Airport (DLH) to Richard I Bong Airport (SUW). ADS-B data showed that the plane was at 1,300 feet mean sea level four minutes after take-off and on a roughly four-mile final approach for runway 14 at SUW when the plane pitched down 30 degrees. The plane impacted nose-down on top of the icy river.
The report states that a debris path was observed, positioned about a magnetic heading of 135 degrees and extending roughly 300 feet. The empennage of the aircraft was found intact at the start of the path, scattered pieces of the airframe were found along the trail and the engine and instrument panel were located at the end of the path. The Cirrus Aircraft Parachute System (CAPS) was found, it had been deployed and was consistent with ground impact.
On the day of the crash, visibility was ten miles, the temperature was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit and the cloud conditions were clear. There was no flight plan filed, but the report does note that it was just a repositioning of the aircraft the pilot co-owned.
After the crash, rescue teams had to recover the wreckage from the ice. The recovered pieces of the plane were taken for further examination in a storage facility. The forward cockpit section and instrument panel had been identified but were destroyed in the crash. Both of the wing ailerons and flaps separated from the wings. The rudder and elevator control cables had pushed forward from the empennage through the ice and had to be cut during recovery. Aileron control cable continuity was confirmed for both of the ailerons and the cable breaks were consistent with overstress to the cockpit area. The flap jackscrews were not recovered but the report states that the RDM data indicated they were retracted. The RDM data revealed the engine was operating within the normal range until the data ended.
The pilot was Dave Rathbun, an employee at Cirrus for over 26 years. He was the Vision Jet Chief Engineer and had done work on the development of multiple Cirrus aircraft, like the SR20, SR22, SR22T and SF50 Vision Jet. The report noted that he held an airline transport pilot certificate and had 3,895 hours of flight experience on his recent FAA second-class medical certificate from Nov. 1, 2022.
The wreckage is still being examined to determine a cause for the crash. Final reports can take a year to 18 months to complete and all information is subject to change.