This January 2008 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: Piper Cherokee, Glastar. Location: Sonoma, Calif. Injuries: None. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: Both pilots were attending a fly-in at the airport. The pilot in the low-wing Cherokee was landing, while the pilot in the high-wing Glastar was departing. A witness said that the Cherokee pilot made radio transmissions around the traffic pattern, and then indicated that he was on final approach for landing. When he was on short final, the Glastar pilot indicated that he was departing. A witness flying above the airport advised the Glastar pilot that an airplane was in the process of landing. The Cherokee and Glastar collided shortly thereafter.
The pilot of the Cherokee told investigators that during his descent, he heard the sound of an airplane engine but before he could react he felt the impact. He looked out of the right window and saw an airplane next to his, turning away and climbing. He noticed that the top portion of the other airplane’s rudder sustained impact damage.
The Glastar pilot told investigators that he was holding short of runway 07 waiting for an airplane to land on runway 25. When that airplane cleared the runway, he announced his intentions to depart and began his takeoff roll. As the airplane became airborne, he heard someone transmit over the frequency that he had someone above him. The pilot looked up and saw the right main gear of an airplane about 6 feet above him. The Glastar pilot attempted to side slip to the right, but the airplanes collided. The Glastar pilot continued to fly the airplane, but did not have any rudder authority. He diverted to Napa County Airport because it had a larger runway available. The landing was made without further incident.
According to 14 CFR 91.113, Right-of-way rules: Except water operations, “Aircraft, while on final approach to land or while landing, have the right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or operating on the surface, except that they shall not take advantage of this rule to force an aircraft off the runway surface which has already landed and is attempting to make way for an aircraft on final approach.”
Probable cause: The departing pilot’s inadequate visual lookout.
For more information: NTSB.gov