This May 2009 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: RV-8, CJ-6A. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Minor. Location: Decatur, Ala. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The RV-8 pilot and the CJ-6A pilot were friends and neighbors who were visiting an airport open house. Prior to returning to their home airport, the pilots discussed if they would be flying home together or separately.
The pilot of the RV-8 had 769 hours, while the CJ-6A pilot had 3,600 hours. He also has undergone formation training through the Formation and Safety Training (FAST) program from the Red Star Pilot’s Association. He had been formation trained since 2003 and had been a lead pilot since 2006.
The RV pilot decided to fly home separately. He departed first and performed some aerobatics near the airport traffic pattern. As the pilot of the CJ-6A prepared to depart, a photographer asked him to make some low passes over the runway, so that he could take pictures. The CJ-6A took off and remained in the left airport traffic pattern. The pilot of the CJ-6A stated that he thought the pilot of the RV-8 planned to leave the area and fly home. As the CJ-6A turned from base leg to final leg, the pilot of the RV-8 radioed via the common traffic advisory frequency that he was at the CJ-6A’s 6 o’clock position, but did not provide distance information.
One of the witnesses at the airport, who was also a pilot, was listening to the CTAF frequency. She heard the pilot of the RV-8 announce, “RV-8 orbiting over south end…runway…Decatur.” As the CJ-6A was on an approximate midfield downwind position for runway 18 for the low pass, the witness heard a transmission over CTAF from the RV-8 pilot, “form fly, okay?” There was no reply from the CJ-6A pilot. The witness then went to retrieve her camera. Subsequently, several other witnesses confirmed the RV-8 pilot’s reports of his relative position to the CJ-6A. The RV pilot then radioed that he was at the CJ-6A’s 4 o’clock position and again did not provide distance information. The CJ-6A then began a pass over the runway at approximately 200 feet above ground level. During that time, the RV-8 closed on the CJ-6A from above and behind. The CJ-6A pilot did not see the RV. About the midpoint of the runway, the pilot of the CJ-6A began a climbing right turn. The RV-8’s left wing hit the CJ-6A. The RV-8’s left wing was partially torn off by the impact and the airplane crashed.
Probable cause: The RV-8 pilot’s failure to maintain adequate clearance from the CJ-6A while maneuvering.
For more information: NTSB.Gov