The accident airplanes were the first two of a flight of six that were traveling to another airport for the pilots and passengers to have breakfast together.
The Cessna 120 departed first as it was a slower airplane and required more time to fly to the destination airport. The Piper PA-28-140 departed about 1 minute 18 seconds later.
Radar data indicated that the second airplane was behind and to the left of the first airplane, until they collided at 3,500′ mean sea level.
It could not be determined why the pilot of the second airplane did not see and avoid the first airplane prior to the collision.
Both airplanes then entered a near-vertical, nose-down descent. Three people died in the crash near North Collins, N.Y.
Examination of the wreckage revealed that the second airplane’s propeller sliced through the first airplane’s empennage, and the first airplane subsequently hit the second airplane’s left wing with its tire, severing an outboard section.
Probable cause: The failure of the second airplane’s pilot to see and avoid the first airplane as he was overtaking the first airplane.
NTSB Identification: ERA16FA324A
This September 2016 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.