First, our thoughts and prayers (yes they work) are going out in full force to the friends and family of the pilot who lost his life last night shortly after taking off in a 2005 Cirrus SR22. Whenever there’s a plane crash, aviation forums light up with speculation on what happened. Many general aviation pilots follow these types of indicates closely to learn help avoid a similar situation themselves in the future.

What happened on the evening of May 11, 2018 at Centennial Airport?

Here’s what we know. The pilot of the SR22 was given takeoff clearance around 8:13PM on 35R MST. Winds were gusting to 21. Shortly after takeoff, ATC advised the Cirrus pilot to remain west of the centerline of 35R for another Cirrus who was on final for 35R.  The pilot of 7TX responded that he would remain west of the centerline for 35R. 60 seconds or so later, ATC asked 7TX to fly east through the centerline, which was again acknowledged and read back by 7TX.

The next communication identifies a problem. ATC asks 7TX what their on-course heading will be, and asked what they were doing. 7TX responded with “Um, 7TX I think I am going to return to ah, return to Centennial.”

ATC continued asking 7TX which runway he wanted, starting with 28. There was a short, brief mic transmission of what sounded like a sharp breath and then silence. We’re not sure if that was from 7TX or not at this point… At that point, you could tell that ATC was a bit frustrated as 7TX was quickly flying into an area that could cause problems for incoming traffic. Several attempts to reach 7TX were unanswered. At around the 19:00 mark, there was a transmission which sounded like another breath. Things went dark after that.

The SR22 is more than capable of flying in yesterday’s conditions if piloted correctly. Based on the ATC communications we’re lead to believe that the pilot of 7TX was likely having a medical emergency, or was panicking because he was facing spatial disorientation. While we’re not sure and we don’t want to jump to any conclusions until the investigation has been completed, this is the first thing that came to mind based on the scenario and ATC communications. One thing is for sure, he was likely flying illegally, VFR in IFR conditions.

Here’s a copy of the audio

Post your thoughts below.