Mid-air in VFR conditions kills two

Aircraft: Cessna 172, Cessna 180. Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Minor. Location: Longmont, Colo. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: Day VFR conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, with reported visibilities at 60 miles. Neither pilot was receiving air traffic control advisories at the time of the collision.

Radar track data depicted the airplanes on gradually converging flight paths prior to the accident.

A CFI and private pilot were aboard the C-172. A 6,315-hour commercial pilot was aboard the C-180.

Immediately before the collision, the Cessna 172 appeared to be on a north-northeast course in level flight at 7,200 feet MSL, and the Cessna 180 was in a gradual climb from 6,800 feet MSL to 7,000 feet MSL on a northerly course.

The radar track associated with the Cessna 180 indicated that after the collision the airplane entered a 270° right turn then headed to the west. The Cessna 172 entered a descent and crashed, killing both occupants.

The pilot of the Cessna 180 stated that she heard a loud bang during cruise flight and the airplane immediately pitched up and rolled into right bank. She thought the noise was attributed to an elevator system failure as the elevator control was limited.

She attempted to divert to a local airport, but was unable to land on a runway due to the impaired airplane control. The outboard portion of the right horizontal stabilizer of the Cessna 180 airplane was structurally compromised, which resulted in a nearly complete loss of pitch control. She retained marginal pitch control by varying engine power during the remainder of the flight. She executed a forced landing to an open area adjacent to the airport.

The post-accident examination determined that the left aileron/wing of the Cessna 172 likely contacted the right horizontal stabilizer of the Cessna 180 in flight. The outboard portion of the left wing on the Cessna 172 was structurally compromised, rendering the airplane uncontrollable.

Probable cause: The inadequate visual lookout by the pilots of both airplanes, which resulted in a mid-air collision.

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA199A

This March 2012 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. Cindy says

    Thank you for posting these misfortunate accidents so they can be used as a training tool for all GA pilots!

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