Mid-air proves fatal for Lancair pilot

Aircraft: Lancair IV-P. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious. Location: Hammonton, N.J. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The Lancair pilot told a witness that he was going to fly to a nearby airport to visit a friend. He was aware that the nearby airport had occasional aerobatic activity near the runway, within an aerobatic box. The box was active on the day of the accident, with a Notice to Airmen issued for aerobatic activity at 3,500 feet and below.

The Lancair approached the airport at about 3,500 feet and at an airspeed of about 190 knots. The Lancair collided with an aerobatic airplane in the box that had just completed a hammerhead stall and was in a dive. The Lancair cut through the aerobatic airplane’s fuselage just aft of the cockpit, top to bottom. The Lancair lost about 4 feet of its left wing and crashed in nearby woods. The pilot of the aerobatic airplane parachuted into the same woods.

The aerobatic pilot and an observer stated that clearing turns were conducted prior to the aerobatic maneuver. However, the sun’s position and the airspeed of the oncoming airplane would have made it highly unlikely that the aerobatic pilot would have seen the Lancair.

It is unknown what the Lancair pilot’s intentions were at the time of the accident. A relative of the pilot, who was also a pilot and who had flown with him often, surmised that the approach to the airport at such a high altitude may have been an exploratory overflight, which is supported by the airplane’s high airspeed at the time. Radar indicated that the Lancair pilot did not perform any standoff maneuvering prior to approaching the airport, and other pilots in the air at the time heard no advisory radio transmissions from him. With his knowledge of potential aerobatic activity at the airport, it is not known why he did not use advocated collision avoidance strategies. The aerobatic box was permanently closed by the FAA shortly after the accident.

Probable cause: The Lancair pilot’s failure to see and avoid the aerobatic airplane. Contributing to the accident was his inadequate use of collision avoidance strategies while inbound to an area of known potential aerobatic activity.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA468A

This August 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.


  1. John says

    “Our hats go off to FAA
    For Saving Life and Limb
    Those Looney Wrights at Kittyhawk
    Will Never Fly Again!”

    While this is indeed a tragedy for all concerned, I agree with the concern over the fact that yet another “right” was taken away in the process of this accident investigation. If “safety” were the overriding concern, we’d all ride around in Sherman tanks and any type of recreational flying would be outlawed.

    Many years ago I was on the receiving end of the FAA’s investigatory techniques. I was treated like a criminal. I am a retired police officer and knew enough to call “BS” to their Gestapo techniques. I called their supervisor and told him that if they didn’t stop the harrassment I’d go up the chain and quick. They backed off and I “got off with a warning”.

    Horse poop.

  2. Hugh says

    “Douglas Manuel says: With that logic, how long would ground transport standup if they closed highways whenever there was an accident.”

    Exactly the point I’ve been trying to make, thank you. People make mistakes we can all learn from but don’t close the airport; even partially. It only moves the activity somewhere else. I fly to an airport where an aerobatic team practices; another where there is a Soaring club; I don’t change the normal pattern entrance procedure because that’s where they are looking for me. Admittedly the aerobatic guys could communicate better but they are busy (aviate first); the Soaring Club’s ground launch guy saturates the CTAF to the point where arriving aircraft have difficulty being heard. They mean well but many of them are not powered flight pilots and are not familiar with what that entails. One evening as I was arriving and having difficulty being heard an arriving twin turbine commuter behind me and having the same difficulty broke in and gave a brief lecture on brevity. Things improved for a bit.

  3. Douglas Manuel says

    With that logic, how long would ground transport standup if they closed highways whenever there was an accident.

  4. Craig says

    This has nothing to do with the FAA. It has all to do with two pilots who were not following both FAA and common sense rules. Common sense tells me you need to make yourself known when entering an area of activity (airport). At least let “traffic” know your intentions and position in Class B & G air space near an airport. If you have a designated FAA use box, you should use it and not leave the box to do your activity. Both pilots were at fault, not the FAA or the airport.

  5. says

    I’ve only been flying for 42 yrs. and owned many high performance aircraft ,so my question is isn’t 190kts about twice the normal approach speed of 95kts?this sounds like a case of high performance Plane and low performance pilot.

  6. says

    from the NTSB report:
    On December 21, 2009, the FAA issued a CW to an individual from International Aerobatic Club Chapter 52, which waived CFR Part 91.303(c) and (d).

    Special provisions included:

    1. Aerobatic flight shall be confined to the area designated on the pictorial chart attached to this CW and defined in special provision 2.

    2. The aerobatic area is further defined as follows: a one nautical mile radius around a point centered over the numbers of Runway 21 at the Hammonton Municipal Airport (N81) with a no fly area established between the 180 degree and the 270 degree magnetic radials of the circle which is the southwest quadrant of the circle. The altitudes included in this waiver are from 1,500 feet agl to 3,500 feet agl.

    5. Before commencing aerobatic flight operations, the person authorized to activate and deactivate the aerobatic practice area shall be responsible for advising the Washington Hub FSS…of the activity and requesting a NOTAM [Notice to Airmen]that includes the following information be issued:
    a) The location, dates and times the aerobatic activity will be in effect.

    7. Notification shall be made to the FSS…at least one hour before aerobatic activity is to commence and notification shall be made to Atlantic City Approach…and McGuire Approach…at least 30 minutes before the commencement of aerobatic activity in the practice area. The FSS, Atlantic City Approach and McGuire Approach shall also be notified at the termination of aerobatic activities.

    11. All pilots operating within the waivered aerobatic area shall maintain VFR at all times and shall be responsible for seeing and avoiding all conflicting traffic.

    13. The holder of this CW or properly designated ground observer representative is responsible for halting or cancelling activity in the aerobatic practice area if, at any time, the safety of persons or property on the ground or in the air is in jeopardy.

    16. Before performing any aerobatic sequence, every reasonable action shall be taken to assure the area is clear before executing any aerobatic maneuver.

    22. The established altitude for this aerobatic practice area (box) is 1,500 feet agl to 3,500 feet agl.

    23. A ground observer who is approved by the waiver holder will always be present observing aerobatic activities in the area. The observer will have an operable two-way radio and will monitor two frequencies.

    The aerobatic box was permanently closed by the FAA shortly after the accident

  7. Ken says

    My sympathies to the families.

    If both pilots had not violated a “rule”, one would still be alive today and another would still have his license and probably not be tied up in litigation with the deceased pilot’s estate.

    It sounds like the aerobatic pilot exceeded the aerobatic box waiver if the impact occurred at 3500′. The maneuver should have not exceeded the waiver ceiling which it sounds like it did if he was in a dive at impact. Hard to say since the encoder on the Lancair could not be verified. If the Lancair pilot had taken the NOTAM seriously he most like would have either scrubbed the flight until after the aerobatics or approached slower at a higher altitude and kept his eyes outside and ears tuned to the appropriate advisory frequency.

    This is not the fault of the FAA as some of the above comments have implied with their editorials on “BIG GOVERNMENT”.

    Please save these comments for a venue not associated with tragedy which was not related to politics.

    • Hugh says

      My comments about the FAA covering their butt were directed at closing the aerobatic box because of the mistakes of one or two pilots. The airport equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bath water. How would you feel if it happened at your home airport and their decision was to close or limit flying times? There very well could be more to the story but if I had $400,000 tied up in an aerobatic aircraft and associated training and the FAA told me I couldn’t use it because of someone else’s screw up, I’d think that was inappropriate use of authority. I certainly would not have issue with measured action for those that actually do something wrong. I could dispute the comment about the aerobatic pilot exceeding his box; if the other guy entered at 3500 feet it would have been MSL and 65 feet below the box ceiling. A YAK can certainly do a hammerhead and be pointing at the ground in that distance. Splitting hairs perhaps but this was clearly the fault of the guy entering the airspace at high speed with no announcements. IMHO.

  8. Paul says

    It is time to take control of our affairs back. The government is out of control. We sit back and complain, but do nothing. Read Mark Levin’s new book. I don’t always agree with him, but if we do nothing, we deserve what we get.

  9. Hugh says

    It is a typical CYA move. I’m retired Fed Civil Service from the bottom 10% of workers that actually have a function; the 90% above us existed to critique what we did; even though few of them were qualified. Common sense is not at all common in these organizations. 100% of the upper echelon spend their time getting promoted in some way; covering, hiding or spending or saving money badly; those that don’t are left behind. Covering Your A _ _ (CYA) is standard procedure without regard to the consequences. I can cite specific instances where people died or could have as a result and in one glaring instance my organization spent untold millions to blame it on a contractor and succeeded. Can’t prove any of it but it makes it no less true. In all instances the uppers were notified by a lower in writing.

  10. McLeod says

    What else do you expect ?? The FAA is a government agency…Common sense doesn’t exist within any branch of government..

  11. Vaughn S. Price says

    Lee, you have all your ducks in a row, The FAA is noted for their ability to fly desks, where common sense is not a requirement of employment

  12. Lee Ensminger says

    So although this tragic accident was CLEARLY the fault of the Lancair pilot, who [1] didn’t check NOTAMS for his destination, [2] didn’t self-announce or communicate with anyone, and [3] apparently didn’t listen to the AWOS of the destination airport [I’m speculating here, but it is easy to place a voice announcement at the end of the AWOS broadcast warning of aerobatic activity; we do it all the time at KMRT] the result is that Hammonton loses its aerobatic box.

    Is it just me, or does that seem to be about the stupidest result possible?!?

    Why…WHY?!?…would the FAA write this accident report and conclude that the correct action to take would be to permanently close the aerobatic box?

    I’m interested to hear the take others have on this. Please, if there’s something I’m not seeing, enlighten me.

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