The Beech 95-B55 was inbound to the airport in LaGrange, Ga., conducting an instrument approach in visual meteorological conditions, when the pilot announced its position over the airport’s common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). Witnesses described the airplane’s approach as fast and stated that it never touched down.
The engines then rapidly accelerated to full power before the plane pitched up into a steep climb, banked left, rolled inverted, and struck the ground in a nearly vertical nose-down attitude, about 3,600 feet down the 5,599-foot-long runway. All three aboard were killed.
Throughout the morning of the accident, glider operations were being conducted on an intersecting runway. As the plane floated down the runway, witnesses observed a tow plane accelerating down the intersecting runway with a glider in tow.
The tow plane pilot then announced over the CTAF: “Abort abort abort.” The glider was then released from the tow plane and landed undamaged on the runway prior to the intersection of the two runways, while the tow plane crossed over the intersecting runway before taxiing back to the ramp.
According to witnesses, neither the glider nor tow plane appeared to be in immediate conflict with the airplane just before the accident, noting the pilot could have safely continued the landing.
Additionally, the three pilots onboard the airplane had flown into the airport earlier in the day and were aware of the glider operations being conducted on the other runway.
However, the pilot’s observed reaction, as evidenced by the sudden application of full engine power followed by the airplane’s abrupt increase in both pitch attitude and bank angle, suggest that he may have been surprised by the appearance of the glider and tow plane in his field of vision and perceived an imminent collision.
The FAA airport manual contained advisories for glider operations at the airport. Examination of the airport rules and regulations, published on the airport website, revealed that a local notice to airmen (NOTAM) was required to be filed prior to the conduct of glider operations.
Additionally, a “spotter” was prescribed to be used during glider operations, positioned in a location from which the entire length of the intersecting runway could be viewed, in order to avoid conflicts with other aircraft.
According to the airport rules and regulations, the tow plane and glider were prohibited from taking off without approval from the spotter.
On the day of the accident, no NOTAM had been filed regarding the day’s glider operations, nor was a spotter being used.
Interviews with the glider operator revealed a widespread lack of knowledge regarding these published rules.
Furthermore, while airport management was aware of the rules with regard to glider operations, there was no method in place to ensure compliance with the published risk management practices.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s overreaction to a perceived conflict with a tow plane and glider on an intersecting runway, which resulted in a loss of control during an attempted aborted landing. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the glider tow operator to follow and the airport operator to ensure compliance with published airport rules and regulations for glider tow operations.
NTSB Identification: ERA14FA128
This February 2014 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.