Mid-air collision kills New Jersey pilot

These November 2005 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 172, Zodiac CH 601.

Location: Pohatcong, N.J.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Substantial, destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot of the Cessna held a private pilot certificate and valid medical certificate. He had logged 129 hours. The pilot of the Zodiac had a private pilot certificate and had logged 325 hours, but did not have a valid medical certificate. He had not held a medical certificate since 1979 when he failed to submit follow up information to his AME when he reported high blood pressure. He reapplied for a medical certificate in September 2002. At the time he disclosed a medical history of coronary artery disease requiring stent placement, bilateral cornea transplants, and gastric bypass surgery, for extreme obesity. His medical certificate was denied but he was offered the opportunity to be considered for a special issuance certificate. Again he failed to submit follow up information.

The Cessna was in level flight about 1,800 feet MSL and the Zodiac was in a shallow descent and flying perpendicular to the Cessna when the two collided. Neither pilot was communicating with any air traffic control facility. At the time of the accident the reported visibility was 10 miles, with high, scattered clouds. The Cessna pilot stated that he saw a flash of blue in the windscreen and felt the impact as the propeller and cowling of the Cessna hit the right wing of the Zodiac. The Cessna momentarily went out of control. The Zodiac’s right wing and part of the canopy was crushed. It spun to the ground. The pilot of the Cessna made an emergency landing in a cornfield.

A flight instructor who had flown in the Zodiac with the accident pilot said that airplane flew in a constant nose up attitude and that the pilot was unable to see around the cowling or move his head much due to his size and the confined cockpit. Friends of the Zodiac pilot told investigators that he told them that he had lost his medical certificate, and was flying as a sport pilot by using his driver’s license in lieu of a medical certificate. However, since the pilot’s medical certificate had been previously denied, he was not legally eligible to fly as a sport pilot using the driver’s license medical.

Probable cause: The inadequate visual lookout of the pilots in both airplanes, resulting in a midair collision during cruise flight.

Aircraft: Piper Comanche.

Location: Tacoma, Wash.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was cleared to enter the traffic pattern on the left base leg. He completed his before landing checklist, lowered the landing gear, then radioed the tower that he had entered the left base.

When the tower did not respond, he realized his radio was not transmitting, but continued with the approach. When he did not see a “three in the green” indication of the landing gear position lights, he determined the plane had experienced a complete loss of electrical power. As a result he was unable to confirm the gear was down and locked. The pilot flew low over the runway until he felt the main wheels touch the runway surface. He then executed a go-around. Based on the momentary touch down, the pilot determined the gear had locked into place. He made a second approach. Just after the aircraft touched down, the landing gear folded back up into the wheel wells, and the aircraft skidded down the runway on its belly.

Investigators determined that the gear had not fully extended because of the loss of electrical power. The voltage regulating system had malfunctioned, allowing the battery to become almost fully discharged. The pilot told investigators that he should have used the emergency gear extension system to make sure of the position and condition of the landing gear.

Probable cause: The malfunction of the voltage regulating system and the subsequent collapse of the landing gear due to the pilot’s failure to use the emergency gear extension system after his aircraft experienced a complete loss of electrical power.

Aircraft: Piper Seneca.

Location: Tomball, Texas.

Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot had an instrument rating and a commercial pilot certificate. He had logged 1,795 hours, including 350 hours in actual instrument conditions. He was cleared for the localizer approach and was told the weather at the airport was ceiling of three hundred overcast and visibility of three miles. The weather minimums for the approach required a ceiling of 500 feet or better and at least one-mile visibility. The approach dictated a minimum descent altitude of 500 feet MSL. The missed approach instructions were to climb to 1,000 feet followed by a right turn.

The airplane remained to right of course throughout the approach and descended to 300 feet MSL. The pilot asked if he was still cleared to land, then attempted to execute the published missed approach.

The airplane climbed to 800 feet and turned right to a heading of 185°, then veered left. A witness saw the airplane come out of the clouds at 300 feet AGL in a high rate of descent and in a 90° bank.

The aircraft crashed on a road just outside the airport and disintegrated on impact. Some of the wreckage struck a passing automobile, injuring the driver.

No pre-impact mechanical issues were found during the post-crash investigation. A weather observation taken approximately two minutes after the accident showed that the ceiling was still 300 feet but visibility had dropped to 1-1/4 miles.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the aircraft while attempting to execute a missed approach procedure in weather that was below landing minimums.

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