Collision during ferry flight

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee, Piper Comanche. Injuries: 2 Fatal Location: New Hampton, N.Y. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The two pilots arrived at the airport in a Piper Comanche to pick up the Piper Cherokee. The intention was that one would fly the Cherokee back to the departure airport.

The pilot of the Cherokee, 53, held a private pilot certificate, issued in 1979. He also held a mechanic certificate, with an Inspection Authorization. At the time of the accident he had approximately 5,840 hours of flight experience, which included 30 hours during the previous six months.

The pilot of the Comanche, 61, held a private pilot certificate. His logbook was not recovered, but from his last application for a medical certificate it was determined that he had at least 1,450 hours of total flight experience at the time of the accident.

The Cherokee took off first. The Comanche was faster and caught up to the Cherokee within five minutes. The Comanche approached from below and behind the Cherokee.

Witnesses on the ground stated they saw the airplanes flying in the same direction when they appeared to clip each other. The Cherokee entered an immediate right spiraling dive, while the Comanche entered an angled nose dive toward the ground.

The Cherokee was found inverted with the fuselage crushed. The outboard portion of the right wing was missing. The structure that was left showed damage consistent with propeller strikes to the aft wing spar and flap. The majority of the Comanche was consumed by a post-impact fire.

Examination of both airplanes revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

It was not known if the pilots were attempting formation flight or were in communication with each other at the time of the accident. FAR 91.111(a) states that “no person may operate an aircraft so close to another aircraft as to create a collision hazard.” In addition, FAR 91.113 stipulates that the pilot of an overtaking airplane (in this case, the Comanche) “shall alter course…to pass well clear” of the overtaken airplane. The Comanche should not have passed over, under, or ahead of the Cherokee unless it was well clear.

Probable cause: The failure of the Comanche pilot to maintain adequate clearance from the Cherokee, resulting in an inflight collision. Contributing to the accident was the Comanche pilot’s decision to overtake the Cherokee.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA291A

This May 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

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