No one is surprised when the NTSB declares that the probable cause of a midair collision is the failure of one or both of the pilots to see and avoid the other aircraft. The statement is used so often that it has become an aviation safety cliché. In its recent report on the collision of a Cirrus SR22 and a Robinson R44 II helicopter near Maryland’s Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), the Safety Board said it again. They also identified several contributing factors. I think they should have noted that had any one of them been missing, the accident likely wouldn’t have taken place. In other words, there were missed opportunities to prevent this accident that had nothing to do with the pilots seeing and avoiding at that time on that day.
The accident occurred on October 23, 2014, at about 3:37 p.m., EDT. The flight instructor, commercial pilot receiving instruction and passenger in the helicopter were killed. The private pilot of the Cirrus wasn’t hurt, and his passenger received minor injuries. The pilot deployed the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) and the airplane descended under the parachute, stopping just above the ground when it became wedged nosedown between relatively narrow-diameter tree trunks, with one tree puncturing the trailing area of the left wing just about where it meets the fuselage. The helicopter was destroyed when it hit the ground next to single-story buildings.