Preliminary crash report released for February plane crash

On Tuesday afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board released the preliminary crash report for the February 24th plane crash that killed Hermantown resident David Rathbun. The report stated that on that day around 4:07pm, a Cirrus Design Corp SR22, N929DR, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Duluth, Minnesota. The pilot was fatally injured.

According to officials, the airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The pilot co-owned the airplane and based it at Richard I Bong Airport (SUW), Superior, Wisconsin. The purpose of the flight was a short reposition from Duluth International Airport (DLH), Duluth, Minnesota to SUW.

According to Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) data and data downloaded from the airplane’s remote data module (RDM), about 4 minutes after takeoff from DLH, the airplane was on approach to SUW. The airplane was at 1,300 feet mean sea level while on an approximate 4-mile final approach for runway 14 at SUW when it suddenly pitched down about 30°. The airplane impacted nose-down on top of a frozen river.

The report also stated that a debris path was observed, oriented about a magnetic heading of 135°, extending about 300 ft. The empennage was located intact at the beginning of the debris path. Scattered pieces of composite airframe were noted along the debris path, with the engine and instrument panel at the end of the path. The Cirrus Aircraft Parachute System was observed deployed consistent with ground impact. The wreckage was further examined following its recovery to a storage facility.

The examination identified the four corners of the airplane. The forward cockpit section and instrument panel were destroyed but identified. Both wing ailerons and flaps had separated from their respective wing. Rudder and elevator control cables extended forward from the empennage through the ice and were cut by recovery personnel to free the empennage. Aileron control cable continuity was confirmed from both ailerons, through cable breaks consistent with overstress, to the cockpit area. The flap jackscrews were not recovered, but RDM data indicated that they were retracted. Review of the RDM data revealed that the engine was operating in a normal range until the end of the data. The wreckage was retained for further examination.

According to the report, the pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate and reported a total flight experience of 3,895 hours on the application for his most recent Federal Aviation Administration second class medical certificate, dated November 1, 2022.

This was a preliminary report and is subject to change.