This October 2007 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.
Aircraft: Cessna 152, Piper Saratoga. Location: Farmingdale, N.Y. Injuries: None. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot of the Piper and the pilot of the Cessna were both inbound to the same airport in visual meteorological conditions. The controller described the traffic as busy with multiple arrivals and departures, and reported having up to eight aircraft at one time in the 30 minutes preceding the accident. The controller received a call from the Cessna pilot some 13.5 miles north of the airport but did not respond to the pilot due to traffic. The Cessna pilot called again and this time the controller responded. The controller directed the Cessna pilot to report entering a left downwind. The Cessna pilot continued on a southerly heading for four miles before turning right to a southwesterly heading. The Piper pilot contacted the controller and reported that he was 10 miles to the north of the airport. The controller mistook the Piper pilot’s transmission for the Cessna pilot, responding “Cessna four five zero republic report entering left down,” and the Piper pilot acknowledged the transmission saying, “left downwind for runway one niner” but did not ask for clarification on whom the call was for nor did he correct the controller as to the tail number or type of aircraft. The controller subsequently informed the Cessna pilot that he had possible traffic off his eleven o’clock position at a half-mile westbound at 1,000 feet. The Cessna pilot responded, “seven two mike looking for traffic.” The Piper pilot stated that he saw the Cessna at the last minute and pulled up hard but was unable to avoid the impact. The Piper pilot informed the controller of the collision and declared an emergency. The Cessna pilot reported that he heard a loud bang, declared an emergency, and landed without further incident.
The controller told the National Transportation Safety Board that he scanned the runways, traffic pattern, final approach course, and the remote automated radar display when he noticed two VFR targets northeast of the field close to one another. Assuming the target on a southwesterly heading was a VFR helicopter passing to the north of the airport, the controller issued possible traffic to the southbound aircraft, assuming it was the Cessna pilot when it was actually the Piper pilot. FAA Order 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, paragraph 2-1-1, Air Traffic Service states: “The primary purpose of the ATC system is to prevent a collision between aircraft operating in the system and to organize and expedite the flow of traffic, and to provide support for National Security and Homeland Defense. In addition to its primary function, the ATC system has the capability to provide, with certain limitations, additional services. The provision of additional services is not optional on the part of the controller, but rather is required when the work situation permits.” According to the FAA, traffic advisories to VFR aircraft are considered an additional service. In addition, paragraph 2-1-21, Traffic Advisories: “Unless an aircraft is operating within Class A airspace or omission is requested by the pilot, issue traffic advisories to all aircraft on your frequency when, in your judgment, their proximity may diminish to less than the applicable separation minima.”
Probable cause: The failure of both pilots to see and avoid while maneuvering, resulting in a midair collision. The controller’s failure to properly identify conflicting traffic was a factor.
For more information: NTSB.gov