Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Owls Head, Maine. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to takeoff at night and collided with a private ground vehicle that was crossing the runway.
The impact tore off the airplane’s right elevator. The pilot continued with the takeoff, then turned to the left. Witnesses said the airplane climbed slowly, then spun into the ground.
The driver of the ground vehicle stated he didn’t see the airplane on the runway until after they collided.
Examination of the vehicle revealed impact marks on the left front fender consistent in size and shape with the airplane’s right elevator. One light bulb from the vehicle’s headlights was located, and examination of the light bulb revealed that the filament was stretched, which is consistent with the light being on at the time of the collision.
The driver stated that he did not, nor was ever required to, have a yellow beacon on his vehicle.
After the accident, the airport required beacons to be placed on the top-most portion of the vehicle and to be operational both day and night while that vehicle operates on the ramp, taxiway, runway, or any other areas that an aircraft may operate.
Examination of the airplane’s wingtip light bulbs revealed that the lights were on at the time of the accident.
It could not be determined if the driver or pilot announced their intentions over the airport common traffic advisory frequency.
A handheld radio was located on the vehicle’s dashboard, however, it was found in the “off” position. When the radio was placed in the “on” position and the correct frequency was set, the radio transmitted normally.
Although the airplane was close to or perhaps past liftoff speed, the pilot likely could have stopped the airplane on the remaining 3,600 feet of paved runway following the impact with the vehicle. However, the pilot did not discontinue the takeoff.
Probable cause: The vehicle driver’s failure to verify that the runway was not occupied by an airplane before crossing the runway, which resulted in the vehicle being struck by a departing airplane, and the pilot’s continued takeoff with flight control damage, which subsequently resulted in an aerodynamic stall and spin at low altitude.
NTSB Identification: ERA13FA059
This November 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.