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Mystery Deepens as Cirrus SR22 Recovered from Atlantic

The location of the aircraft was no mystery, as you’ll see. Investigators will be focusing on why the plane’s path went astray.

On the morning of May 6, a South Carolina-based Cirrus SR22 GTS was making a short trip to buy fuel with just the pilot aboard when it mysteriously lost contact with Savannah Approach and flew nearly 20 miles off the coast of Georgia before crashing into the water. This week, a salvage team recovered the pilot’s remains, and Sea Tow later brought the Cirrus back to shore. Pilot incapacitation is the likeliest suspect, which the controller handling the flight seemed to have suspected.  

The pilot of the Cirrus was 67-year-old Edwin Alton Farr, of Lexington, South Carolina. Friends of the pilot described him as a conscientious, safety-focused and skilled pilot. The plane he was flying was a 2006 Cirrus SR22. According to FAA records, Farr had owned the plane for just under two years.

The Part 91 VFR flight originated near Lexington, South Carolina, and was proceeding south to land at Barnwell (KBNL), on what should have been a roughly 20-minute leg. An airport employee at Barnwell was expecting the Cirrus at 9 a.m., but the plane never arrived. According to audio and radar records compiled by VAS Aviation on YouTube, Savannah Approach lost radio contact with the plane while it flew an arrival to Barnwell, during which it leveled out and simply cruised southeast toward open water at about 130 knots.

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Realizing something was amiss, the Savannah controller asked a northbound Cirrus to intercept the plane and “take a look” for anything unusual. “Nobody can seem to reach him,” the controller said. The second Cirrus took headings from the controllers to make a loose intercept and inspection, during which the first plane began slowing and descending in a manner seemingly consistent with fuel exhaustion. According to the witness Cirrus, no movement was detected in the cockpit, the on-board CAPS airframe parachute was never deployed, and no door opened after contact with the water. The chase plane orbited the area while a Coast Guard helicopter from nearby Tybee Island was dispatched.

A side note—friends and families of the accident pilot have expressed their gratitude to the pilot who intercepted the accident plane and circled the crash site for 40 minutes while the Coast Guard responded to the incident.

The NTSB and the FAA are looking into the accident, and investigators will probably be looking for mechanical issues that could have caused possible carbon monoxide levels to rise in the plane’s interior. They will also be eagerly anticipating the medical examiner’s report to see if elevated levels of CO were present or if the suspected incapacitation was caused by something else. We’ll keep you updated.

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