No Injuries Reported In SR-22, Metroliner Midair (Updated)


No injuries were reported in a midair collision involving a Key Lime Air SW4 Metroliner and a Cirrus SR-22 over Colorado’s Cherry Creek State Park on Wednesday. According to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, there were two people onboard the Cirrus and the aircraft’s CAPS whole-airframe parachute was deployed. The only person onboard the Metroliner was the pilot, who was able to land the aircraft at Centennial Airport (KAPA) following the accident with near catastrophic damage to the aircraft’s rear fuselage section.

“About 10:25 a.m. today, the sheriff’s office as well as South Metro Fire began receiving calls of a plane crash near Belleview Avenue and South Cherry Creek Drive,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office deputy John Bartmann. “Deputies responded and found a single-engine plane had collided with another plane midair. The other plane was able to land at Centennial Airport without any issues and without any injuries.”

ADS-B tracking data from FlightAware shows that the Metroliner was inbound from the west, being vectored for Runway 17L at Centennial, south of Denver. The Cirrus, which was rented from KAPA-based Independence Aviation, was returning to the airport after a flight to the north and was being vectored for Runway 17R from the northwest. As heard in the audio below from, controllers were working the runways on different frequencies. The Metroliner, identified as Key Lime Flight 970, was a repositioning flight inbound to KAPA from Harriet Alexander Field (KANK) in Salida, Colorado.

According to the audio, the Cirrus had been cleared to land on 17R behind a Cessna, with another Cessna following. The Cirrus pilot called the first Cessna in sight and when the Metro was also pointed out, he appeared to confirm that traffic was in sight, too. The controller’s last transmission was to warn the Cirrus pilot not to overshoot the final to 17R. Moments later, the controller apparently saw the CAPs deployment and asked if the Cirrus required assistance. The Metro pilot may have been unaware of the collision. He declared an emergency after reporting an apparent engine failure and continued to the airport to land without further incident.

Audio: – Key Lime Flight 970
Audio: – Cirrus SR-22 (6DJ)

The NTSB is investigating the accident and expects to publish its preliminary report in the next 14 days. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

FlightAware ADS-B data, Centennial midair collision.
Image: The Aviation Herald
Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. And just last week, AvWeb ran a survey about “see and avoid”. From the looks of the picture, the Cirrus didn’t do either. Amazing that the Metroliner still has a tail!

    • Nor did the Metroliner. Interesting how this can happen in Class D airspace. I guess the local controller just sequences airplanes for landing. Seems like the engineers all deserve a pat on the back!

      • Looking at the ADS-B data, it appears the Cirrus was about 30 knots faster maybe coming up from behind and to the right. The Metroliner pilot definitely would not have seen him coming.
        The Cirrus had reported Metroliner in sight, but by the time he was flying through his final he may have been above with it straight in front of him. Ultimately, it would have been the Cirrus pilots responsibility to maintain visual separation.

        • I keep hearing “don’t fly through the final”. That’s ambiguous phraseology since a final is always a cone shape that only narrows near the runway.

          They need to be very clear and say “do not cross centerline”.

          • Arthur, with all due respect, any pilot worth his beans, knows that you SIMPLY don’t fly through the final of another runway! I wouldn’t even attempt to blame this on the controllers. This accident happened because of shear inattention of the Cirrus pilot. End of story.

          • @ JP (below) The accident happened some 4 miles from the runway. Honestly it’s nuts for the controller have a VFR pilot nail a 90 degree entry for a VFR final 4 miles out to within a hundred feet. NO ONE flying VFR can be expected to nail a centerline that far out using eyeballs. Heck, if your looking right to look at the airport, just how do you see traffic in the other direction?

      • That’s all tower controllers do in the pattern, sequence you with who to follow. It becomes you responsibility for separation then. The local controller only has responsibility to provide runway separation, insuring only the allowed number of folks are using it at once. Now this isn’t to say Local would not reach out and add additional help of any type if they recognize an immanent safety situation. But unfortunately, from the tower cab and out to distances in the extended pattern, the eyeballs just can’t see details of all that is going on. And it can happen so quick, considering the tower controller isn’t just staring at one situation and must be looking around at numerous activities at any time, they just can’t be there for everyone every time. I say that from 38 years of ATC .

  2. Judging by the ATC video I saw, there is a lot more involved here than “see and avoid”. Sure shows how rugged that Metroliner is, along with the cool radio response of the cargo pilot. Glad to hear no injuries.

  3. I thought ADS-B would prevent Mid-Air Collision.. Oh, another Government Program gone to $#*&..

  4. I thought ADS-B would prevent Mid-Air Collisions.. Ooop’s.. Another Government Program gone to $#*&..

  5. The real beauty of the audio is listening to what’s being said in the background. The Female controller is heard asking several times “what do you want me to do”.

  6. ADSB may help sometimes and for many people and applications is worth having. It’s not ADSB I’m opposed to rather the government mandate. Best way to make me or a patriot resist is to make a mandate.

    I saw a good video on this last night on YouTube.

    It *appears* the Cirrus overshot the centerline and ran over the Metroliner.

    Looking at the damage on the Metroliner it seems impossible it hit anyone; rather was the one hit.

    World class driving and coolness on the Metroliner’s pilot’s part.

    Also looks like a CAPS save for the Cirrus.

  7. Wow, it’s a good thing the control cables for the Metroliner’s tail go through the belly and not overhead. Hard to believe there was enough structure left to hold the tail in place. It appears there is a visible sag of the aft structure in the ground photo.

  8. Here’s a question no one has yet asked … did the Cirrus’ ELT go off ?? Sounds like another subject for a subsequent PBgram 🙂 . Here’s a perfect example of ‘when ADS-B ‘out’ stops … that’s where the airplane is.

    Also, did either or both airplanes have and use ADS-B ‘in?’ Does all the Cirrus’ automation give a verbal “traffic, traffic” call out?

    • All the fancy ADS-B garbage does no good when you don’t follow ATC instructions after acknowledging traffic that was already pointed out. When doing close parallel visual approaches with traffic already known, you need your eyes looking out the window, not heads down trying to interpret a display. And when told to not overshoot the final on the runway you are cleared for you make sure you don’t overshoot!

    • That’s why I asked if any Cirrus pilots knew if the airplane gives “traffic, traffic” audio call outs. I agree that you don’t want to be looking down when flying parallel runways approach. Someone pointed out the Cirrus was going too fast, as well … likely a contributing factor, if true. The ADS-B info does appear to show that.

  9. …and Bertorelli insulted a YouTube commenter and told others the guy was full of sh*t for correctly mentioning that Bertorelli and his Bristell demo pilot had their heads inside 98% of the sunny Florida day video instead of adequately clearing for traffic, then Bertorelli refused to apologize or retract the insult when the relevant AC’s, AIM and FARs were pointed out to him. Still hasn’t.

  10. I just reviewed it for myself.
    Even recognizing there was editing, during 4 minutes of flight video, Mancuso looked outside once for four seconds, Bertorelli never once took his eyes off either Mancuso or the panel.
    Why do drivers and pilots think they need to turn their heads and face their passenger to speak to them?
    I train my students to overcome etiquette and focus on survival.

  11. A good reason why you should try to avoid sitting at the back…
    Old joke about trains has a little old lady asking a conductor which was the most dangerous carriage to sit in.
    “The last one,” he says
    And she says “Then why don’t you take it off?”

  12. There are many things to learn from this. When ATC pointed out the metroliner traffic, the Cirrus pilot hesitantly acknowledged something, but it didn’t come across as a positive confirmation. When in doubt, it is better to say you don’t have it in sight. Once you report something as in sight, then it becomes your problem. Second lesson is, be super careful when parallel runway operations are taking place. Third lesson, don’t fly an unusual pattern – too fast or too wide. If you have to, make sure everyone in the pattern knows what you are doing. The metroliner pilot did a great job. I will send my family flying with him any day. The Cirrus pilot needs more training. The stars must have been aligned for him that day.

  13. High density altitude, parallel runways, ATC controlling both runways on different frequencies, calm winds on ground but a significant tailwind at pattern altitude for right traffic assigned to 17R when on base, low wing Cirrus airplane slightly higher than the Metroliner on a five mile straight in final, following his assigned, identified, and verified Cessna target aircraft in front of him, with all of these converging airplanes flying VFR depending in their visuals for traffic separation, and ATC allowing all of these converging aircraft, including a student on first solo, to arrive at the same time in the same airspace. What could possibly go wrong?

    Lots of opportunity for an accident chain to develop. I doubt of the Cirrus pilot ever saw the Metroliner being in a right hand bank above and slightly behind the Metroliner overtaking while descending. The Metroliner had no idea he was virtually sawed in half by another airplane. All he knew was that he had lost the right engine. See and avoid works when you see and avoid. Hard to avoid what you don’t see. Ground speed as well as distance goes up very fast at high density altitudes adding ingredients making a base to final turn with a tailwind a distinct possibility for overshooting the runway centerline. Not as serious of a problem for a 172 the Cirrus is following. But using the assigned 172 target aircraft ahead for one’s visual ques in a slick SR22 continues to whittle down any safety margins left when three airplanes all converge with in a couple of hundred of feet of each other on short final. I wonder how many tower people were looking outside of their “cockpit” as well.

    No one issue here. A bunch of issues all happening at the same time. It will be interesting to see how the relationship of the NTSB and FAA come together to sort this mess out.

    • Tower controllers are constantly looking a many different activities happening all at the same time. Their attention is frequently inside the tower, looking at strips, looking around at other runways and traffic, looking down at the runway to determine how and when to launch the next in line for departure. They look out at specific events only in passing through the group of activities needing attention. Once a situation is established as working (who to follow, “I see him”, “cleared to land”) it is assumed that event is ok for the moment and attention goes elsewhere, maybe back into the tower for other needed duties. It is not a one on one situation. Last time I acted in that capacity as a controller it was while running GCA/PAR approaches in the military. Then, yes, your focus is totally on that one customer until the specific job is done. As a pilot your head needs to be out of the cockpit and head on a swivel. You and the controllers are working together as a team to make it work, each doing their respective duty.

        • I’m guessing they did for an airport that size and busy, one at each local position. But realistically, a Brite would not be of any use for this type traffic pattern situation. A Brite is used to initially help in sequencing aircraft and issuing traffic as necessary, which both local positions did. But, after that is accomplished, and based on the involved pilots’ responses acknowledging the traffic, the sequence, and even the cleared to land on the appropriate runway, the job of the Brite for that situation is concluded. There is now an assumption that what ever the pilots do regarding spacing on their traffic, it is done by them intentionally…and they by virtue of having their traffic visually, they are doing the appropriate thing. They Brite will then see, and does all day long, planes’ targets near touching each other. That is because the Brite, set on a distant surveillance range, just cannot determine exactly how close the planes are. Again, there is an assumption that the pilots are doing the right thing. And with traffic turning final out at several miles, the controllers just can’t with eyeballs see the details either. Many folks (pilots) do have a misunderstanding of what ATC can and cannot do for you. It is just the way the system is designed. We of course can demand that FAA develop more procedures that impose more strict control, giving it to controllers and taking from the PIC. ATC procedures are a compromise and work pretty good, millions of times a month, but certainly could be more controlling if we wish for that.

  14. We are the weakest link, goodbye ! Whether it be the pilot, the controller, or maybe the rulemaker, there was nothing technically amiss with these 2 aircraft and we are in the year 2021: there is no excuse but human stupidity for such an event. For reasons of safety and lower emissions, we need to throw all rules out of the window, dump ATC, impose ADSB and built-in a fully independent terrain and traffic avoidance system with only a ‘sequencing master’ for the busiest airports. Let’s get Elon to come up with something better than this Flintstone-solution that won’t always have Lady Luck around to count on. Vested efforts, knee-jerking against the new… out the window, this is costing us too dearly.

  15. I never believed in frequency separation. Everybody should be talking and listening on the same frequency. The runways are too close together to do otherwise.