Plane crashes while attempting to catch a bank robber

These April 2003 Accident Reports are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Trenton, Tenn.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the pilot, he was assisting the local police in the apprehension of a bank robber. He was circling over a field in an attempt to corral the robber into a confined area so that he could be apprehended.

The pilot entered a steep turn. As he continued the maneuver, he encountered a wind gust and was unable to recover before the airplane collided with the ground. Examination of the airplane revealed no flight control or mechanical malfunctions with the airplane.

Probable cause: The pilot’s loss of control in flight and failure to maintain adequate airspeed, which resulted in a stall and subsequent collision with the ground.

Aircraft: Cessna T207.

Location: Merlin, Ore.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to fly from Bend, Ore., to Grants Pass, Ore., under visual flight rules. The pilot held numerous pilot certificates, including ATP, and reportedly had more than 34,976 flight hours. He did not file a flight plan.

VFR conditions prevailed when the pilot departed, but became progressively worse as he approached his destination. The terrain between Bend and Grants Pass is mountainous. At the time of the accident the area had low clouds and low visibility.

When the pilot did not arrive as scheduled, family members notified law enforcement. The aircraft wreckage was found in heavily wooded mountainous terrain. Indications were that the aircraft had clipped a tree on a slope at approximately 3,000 feet above sea level, then tumbled into the hillside. Investigators did not find any mechanical problems that would have contributed to crash.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain clearance from mountainous terrain while in cruise flight. Factors include low ceilings and mountainous terrain.

Aircraft: Piper Turbo Lance II.

Location: St. George, Utah.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: The pilot said he made a normal straight in approach, crossing the boundary fence at 85 knots.

When he entered the flare over the touch down point, the aircraft ballooned, then touched down harder than normal. The nose gear collapsed and the airplane skidded to a halt about 1,300 feet down the runway.

The landing gear down-locks were sent to NTSB’s materials laboratory for examination. That examination showed multiple fractures typical of overstress separation, with no evidence of a preexisting fatigue crack, although contact wear was noted.

Probable cause: The improper flare technique, resulting in a hard landing that caused the nose landing gear down-lock to fail and the gear to collapse.

Aircraft: Rans S-12.

Location: West Point, Tenn.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: The owner/builder of the aircraft was not a certificated pilot. The aircraft was not registered and investigators could not find the logbooks, so there is no information regarding the aircraft ever having undergone an airworthiness inspection.

According to a witness, the pilot took off to the north departing under some high voltage power lines that ran perpendicular to the runway about 50 feet above the ground. The aircraft lifted off normally, but as it climbed the wings appeared to flex upward.

The pilot made a 180° turn. The witnesses said it looked as if the pilot was trying to make it back to the runway. As the aircraft passed beneath the power lines again, the left wing hit the wires. Approximately 18 inches of the left wing was torn off the aircraft. The aircraft plunged to the ground.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain adequate obstacle clearance which resulted in the in-flight collision with a utility line.

Aircraft: Cessna 206.

Location: Newport, R.I.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The Cessna 206 pilot had to taxi behind a King Air 300 to get to the runway. The Cessna pilot said as he approached the area behind the King Air, there was a 90° crosswind from the left. He said he could hear the engines operating on the King Air, but didn’t realize they were at high power. The owner of the company performing a maintenance run in the King Air reported that it was parked on a slight uphill incline. The mechanic had started the engines, and then applied power to the left engine to make a right turn out of the parking spot.

The pilot of the Cessna said he tried to compensate for the prop blast coming off the King Air using control deflection, but it was not enough and the Cessna was blown over.

Probable cause: The inadvertent encounter with prop blast.

Aircraft: Lancair IV.

Location: Wamego, Kan.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was second in line for landing. In order to increase spacing between himself and the aircraft he was following, the pilot performed a series of S-turns.

He told investigators that the runway was narrower than what he was accustomed to, and as a result he misjudged his altitude.

The aircraft touched down on the runway sooner and harder than the pilot planned.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain altitude/clearance from the runway while maneuvering on final approach. A factor to the accident was the pilot’s misjudgment of his altitude while on final approach.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Holt, Mo.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot told investigators he thought he had eight gallons of fuel on board. The purpose of the flight was to circle the airport to warm the engine prior to an oil change.

A witness reported the pilot made a normal take off and flew in the pattern for a touch and go. After the second take off the aircraft engine lost power. The witness said the aircraft reached an altitude of approximately 50 feet over the runway when the engine quit. The aircraft made a 60° turn to the left and came down in trees at the end of the runway.

The post-accident investigation revealed no fuel in the right wing tank and 1 inch of fuel in the left wing tank. Investigators also determined that the fuel strainer was defective and did not allow fuel to be drained.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight planning/preparation, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

Aircraft: Piper Pawnee Brave, Grumman Tiger.

Location: Herald, Calif.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilots of the Piper and the Grumman were both attempting to land at a small uncontrolled airport. Neither pilot was transmitting on the local Unicom frequency.

The Piper was being used for agricultural operations. The pilot finished the application, then returned to the airport for landing.

The Grumman was on an instructional flight with a CFI and a student on board. The pilot of the Piper said that as he was touching down on the runway, he heard the sound of metal on metal. He noticed the wings of the Grumman below his airplane and initiated a go around. The Grumman remained on the runway. The pilot of the Piper diverted to a nearby airport.

According to the pilot of the Grumman, the aircraft landed normally, but when the wheels touched the pavement the aircraft started to fishtail. The pilot did not realize another aircraft had hit him until he saw the Piper flying away from him.

Probable cause: The failure of both pilots to maintain visual separation. The lack of radio communications was a factor.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Needham, Ark.

Injuries: 2 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to take off from a private grass strip that had powerlines and a road running perpendicular to the departure end. The pilot said everything was normal during the preflight inspection and ground run up. The aircraft accelerated normally, but just after lift off, the engine lost power. The pilot decided to land straight ahead. He could not fly beneath the powerlines, as there was a truck on the road directly in front of him, so he attempted to fly over the lines. The aircraft struck the powerlines and hit the ground.

Probable cause: The total loss of engine power for undetermined reasons. A contributing factor was the lack of suitable terrain for the forced landing.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Injuries: None.

Location: Blacksburg, Va.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot attempted to land three times. The first two attempts resulted in go-arounds. During the third landing attempt, the airplane touched down hard and bounced back into the air. The airplane touched down hard again, with the propeller striking the runway. The aircraft came to rest upright on the runway. Examination of the airplane did not reveal any mechanical deficiencies with the flight controls.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper flare and his improper recovery from a bounced landing.

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