Several eyewitnesses reported observing the Piper Cherokee performing several takeoffs and landings in Danville, Va. One witness stated that, during one landing attempt, the airplane was low, that a go-around was initiated, and that the airplane banked sharply left and right during the maneuver.
The witness reported that the second landing attempt was successful and that the airplane was then taxied back to the beginning of the runway for another takeoff. During the last approach, the plane was observed flaring too high and banking left.
One witness stated that the pilot added power and categorized the subsequent climbout as very shallow just before the airplane hit an antenna and terrain. A post-impact fire ensued and the pilot was killed.
Review of flight school records revealed that the student pilot’s first solo flight was four days before the accident. It could not be determined if the first solo flight was considered the student pilot’s supervised solo or if the accident flight was considered the supervised solo. The flight school’s standard operating procedure was to “completely go through all requirements twice,” so although the accident flight was the student pilot’s second solo flight, it should still have been supervised by the flight instructor.
The flight instructor reported that the student pilot was scheduled to fly about an hour earlier than when the accident flight initiated, however due to work requirements, the student pilot had to delay the flight. The flight instructor stated that the student was “upset” about the delay.
He said that they conducted three takeoffs and landings together, which took about 30 minutes, and that he then exited the airplane for the student pilot’s solo flight. The flight instructor reported that, when the student pilot departed on the solo flight, he witnessed a “beautiful” landing and then went inside to check on another student. He subsequently observed the student pilot conduct more landings, which he categorized as “good.”
A cell phone was located inside a thermally damaged case. The cell phone was found off, however, when activated, it indicated that a missed call occurred around the time of the accident. According to the manufacturer, the cell phone may overheat and shut down when exposed to high temperatures and will not register a call when powered off. Therefore, it is likely that the cell phone was on and that the pilot was aware of the incoming call when it was received.
Although the investigation could not determine if the student pilot had become distracted by a cell phone call, the flight instructor noted that the student was very focused on learning but that he was distracted when his cell phone rang.
However, the flight instructor did not require the pilot to turn the cell phone off during flight. The flight instructor was in a position of authority and operational control and should have taken steps to ensure that the student was not distracted by the cell phone while flying.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the student pilot’s failure to maintain control and climb the airplane during a go-around maneuver. Contributing to the accident was the flight instructor’s failure to provide adequate oversight of the student pilot by ensuring that the cockpit was free of distractions.
NTSB Identification: ERA13FA385
This August 2013 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.
I carry an iPhone and have the ringer on loud. It is in a case on my belt. I fly a 300HP single engine plane. You call while I’m doing a take-off, run-up, or landing (which means low power once on short final) and I won’t hear it.
Note, that’s not that I won’t answer it, I won’t hear it (and don’t read into it that if I could hear it I would answer it).
Now, in a Piper Cherokee-180, like one I used to fly (B or C) or Archer, the chances of me hearing that phone with my headset on are still quite low, if the engine is running at anything other than idle.
So I’ll cut to the chase: Given that all that the article has is all that the NTSB had, I think they’re out on a limb. And I don’t think one has to be an attorney to see this coming.
So he gets a call about the time of that landing and he is doing a go-around. The NTSB is part of the state, and therefore the burden of proof is upon them. That co-incidentally the phone rang about the time of that landing is in sufficient. They must prove that that call could be heard with the same headset and people giving position announcements, etc.
With that burden I’d expect that the swipe at the CFI collapses were the CFI take this to court (and this may be what happens because someone will probably want the CFI to take responsibility for a wrongful death).
You have no idea what headset was used, and you can definitely hear a cell phone ring in a Cherokee, easily.
Why do people feel compelled to react to a phone ringing, especially one of these little hand held portable wireless gadgets that we call cell phones which are in reality a two way radio or the modern day walkie talkie since so many like to walk and talk on one at the same time. Let the damn thing ring and the caller go to an answering machine, voice mail, etc. especially while operating any machinery of any kind like an airplane while flying close to the ground in a traffic pattern or on landing approach. When I’ve had the occasion to listen in on one side of a cell phone conversation that has become public because the individual using it seems not the least bit deterred by it being public, I have noticed that most of these conversations are totally void of anything of importance. It’s like “hi, whatch-u doin, oh nothin whatch-u doin…blah blah blah.” This article could just as easily have been titled: “Which is more important – life or answering that cell phone?”
This article has the wrong title. It should have been “When the Cell Phone Rings another one bites the dust”. I don’t think it’s possible for this or any other CFI to “assure the cockpit … free of distractions”, though cell phone discipline probably needs to be a serious discussion item. Also, isn’t one of the criteria for operating an aircraft “the ability to manage distraction” … successfully?
Glenn C. Darr says
Just like driving a car, when the phone rings people grab it. Not a good idea in a car, and less so in an airplane. I carried my phone in the plane when I flew, too. It provided the hotspot for my Ipad and that was it.