These October 2009 accident reports are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Two Cessna 150s. Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious, 1 Minor. Location: Alexandria, La. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The airplanes departed as a formation of two. The intention of the pilots was to perform a low pass followed by a full-stop landing at the destination airport. The pilots had flown in formation together, but neither had received formal training in formation flying.
The pilot of the lead airplane had logged 530 hours total time, including 20 hours in the preceding six months. The pilot of the wingman airplane had 886 total flying hours with 536 hours in the same make and model as the accident airplane. After the accident, the wingman pilot stated that although he had not been formally trained as a formation pilot, he flew about one formation flight a month. However, he did not routinely practice aircraft separation maneuvers.
On the day of the accident, the pair performed the low pass, then the formation began a climb to enter the downwind pattern to land. The wingman was positioned slightly aft and below the lead and to the right, spaced approximately 100 feet. The lead pilot radioed his intention to start a right turn. The wingman was not comfortable with his position in relation to the lead so he radioed that the lead should not turn “too hard” to the right.
Following the radio call the lead airplane was observed to enter a 45° right-bank turn. The wingman initiated a climb and rolled to the right in an attempt to obtain spacing away from the lead, however the airplanes collided. The lead airplane lost its vertical fin and there was structural damage to the right wing. The wingman’s engine stopped following impact of the his propeller with the wing spar of the lead’s airplane. Both airplanes hit a heavily wooded area.
FAA Advisory Circular AC 90-48B, “Pilot’s Role in Collision Avoidance,” cautions general aviation pilots of several key points of flying in formation, including “avoid attempting formation flight without having obtained instruction and attained the skill necessary for conducting such operations.”
Toxicology findings performed on the lead pilot were consistent with the recent use of two different prescription muscle relaxants. The investigation could not determine whether sedation from the use of those medications or distraction from the condition for which he was taking them may have impaired the his decision-making on the day of the accident. Both the pilot and passenger in the wingman airplane survived the accident.
Probable cause: Failure of the wingman to maintain proper separation from the lead airplane during formation maneuvers. Contributing to the accident was the lead’s abrupt right bank and both pilots’ lack of formation training.
For more information: NTSB.gov NTSB Identification: CEN10FA011A