The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Air Safety Institute (ASI) has released a new video from its Early Analysis series providing an initial examination of a recent accident.
On March 7, 2023, a Piper Warrior and a Piper J-3 Cub on floats collided over Lake Hartridge, just east of Winter Haven Regional Airport (KGIF) in Winter Haven, Florida. Sadly, all four people on board the airplanes perished in the accident.
The Piper Warrior had flown from Lakeland Linder International Airport (KLAL) for pattern work at Winter Haven. The Piper Cub had just returned to transition to Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base located at Lake Jessie, adjacent to the Winter Haven Airport.
The weather was VFR with good visibility and a few clouds at 4,100 feet. The Warrior turned left base for Runway 29 as the J-3 Cub flew across Lake Hartridge when the two airplanes collided.
“In Early Analysis: Winter Haven Midair, the AOPA Air Safety Institute wants to help pilots understand what is known about the accident as we look at factors that are likely to be a subject of the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board,” said AOPA’s ASI Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden.
“The NTSB issued a statement based on video footage it obtained that it can confirm that the two airplanes collided nearly head-on. The NTSB also said that the J-3 attempted to dive to the right immediately before the collision.”
“Most midairs happen near an airport traffic pattern where things just line up perfectly for two airplanes to be in the same piece of sky. Airplanes like the J-3 Cub without an electrical system might consider portable technologies like hand-held radios and ADS-B In technology for situational awareness of traffic volume and position at the airport,” McSpadden added.
View the video here.
View other Early Analysis videos here.
Joe Henry Gutierrez says
I strongly believe that if the cub would of had a two way radio he would of heard the warrior in the pattern and would of avoided the tragedy, the warrior was broadcasting his position in the pattern, the cub failed to see him and also failed to hear his position calling on the radio !!! This is not a speculation, this is what happened !!!
Roland Paul Desjardins says
I’m curious to know how many near midair collisions occurred before this needless accident? Why would a commercial operation not, at least, have a handheld comm. radio to listen for traffic at Winterhaven Airport? It seems like that cheap option could have saved 4 lives.
Kelly Carnighan says
The root cause of the tragic fatal midair collision at Winter Haven Airport was the fact the J3 Cub on floats crossed with .43 nm of the approach end of a runway actively being used by not just one aircraft but multiple aircraft. The J3 Cub did so at an altitude approximately 500 agl. Yes the J3 Cub was in airspace where a radio was not required, an yes, the J3 Cub was in Class G airspace. FAR Part 19.113 says in part, “when a rule of this section give another aircraft the right-of-way, the pilot shall give way to that aircraft and my not pass over, under or ahead of it unless well clear.” “Landing aircraft while on final approach to land or while landing, have the right-of-way over other aircraft in flight.” Clearly, the J3 Cub should not have been where it was, which ultimately conflicted with the Winter Haven traffic pattern, resulting in the fatal collision.
Cary Alburn says
Second guessing without all (and I mean ALL) of the facts may be fun, but it rarely answers the why and the how. The facts we know are that two airplanes were in the same spot at the same time, and 4 people died. That’s a tragedy, which theoretically could have been avoided. But blaming anyone in either airplane is unproductive.
We all know that there are many blind spots in any airplane that prevent us from seeing 360° from any seat. We know that seeing above or below an airplane is very difficult. We know that “see and avoid” is inherently inadequate. We know that even a bug splatter on a windshield can block seeing an oncoming airplane. We know that glare can prevent seeing an oncoming airplane. We know that just looking in one direction can prevent seeing an airplane coming from another direction. We know that altimeters have errors. We know that ADS-B provides aural warnings as well as display warnings. We know that announcing positions is valuable, but we also know that position reports are often inaccurate.
In other words, we know lots of things, but we don’t know which one or ones caused or contributed to this horrible incident, or if indeed anything that we know did so. Speculating won’t bring anyone back, nor will it necessarily prevent another similar incident from happening, there or elsewhere.
Pilot in NC says
Interesting to see people here shifting the blame to the Warrior, which was visible on ADS-B and making radio calls while flying a tight pattern, and away from the Cub, which flew through an active traffic pattern without a radio or ADS-B equipment.
Yes, perhaps both pilots could have spent more time on their visual scan. But only one of these aircraft was being operated in a way that made a conflict more likely.
Tim Preston says
The instructor in the J-3 Cub was not being vigilant for traffic established in the standard traffic pattern. He knew the wind direction and should not have put his aircraft in that situation.
Joe Henry Gutierrez says
In todays traffic especially in the traffic pattern why would anyone with any intelligence fly an airplane with out a two way radio ?? If the J3 would of had a radio he would of heard the warrior coming into the traffic pattern, so stupid to fly deaf, I have always said not to allow any one to fly an airplane without a radio. no ifs ands or buts, its just plain unsafe to the max, regardless of what anyone says. Because of the regs saying if it comes from the factory 50 years abo without a radio, it is ok and safe to fly that airplane without a radio, how stupid is that ????? Now you have four dead people because of that !!!! so stupid !!! nuff said.
Dale L. Weir says
3 high profile fatal mid-airs in 2022….all 6 aircraft had and were using functional radios.
Chris Souchon says
Totally agree, situation awareness starts with communication.!
A large question remains, why didn’t the Cherokee pilots see the Cub they were approaching? Neither aircraft was particularly fast, and the approaching Yellow Cub on large white floats should have been visually easy to identify from either the Cherokee’s left when starting their turn, or directly ahead (and probably only doing 75 knots!).
In addition, the Cherokee pilots had the most favorable possible sun positions whether from their right, or directly behind them. It seems neither pilot was actually concerned with, or looking for other area traffic.
Frank Ingels says
Eyes outside. Best collision. Learn military scan techniques. Eyes outside. Looking all around in a pattern.
My Father taught me that when driving you need to scans all side and reserve mirrors as well as in front so you know what’s around you.
This applies to flying as well.
I tried to teach my kids that. Heck, I’ve tried to embark on remedial training in that regard with my wife, who tools along oblivious to the car trying to merge from an on-ramp.
You probably know how well that goes down, LOL.
Bill R says
Altitudes are irrelevant. Why was the J3 cutting through the traffic pattern, at any altitude?
Although I have ADS-B in and out, I also have a lot of J3 time and understandbthe need to keep my eyes outside; however, I continually find myself relying on ADS-B for traffic separation. My day 8s coming, unfortunately.
Earl Tuggle Sr says
Will the FAA ever admit that the false sense of security and added distraction ADS-B causes contribute to these tragic events? Probably not. Perhaps the NTSB eventually will. We do know that recorded radio communications indicate the Warrior instructor was convinced her aircraft was the only plane in the area, because her electronics told her so.
Unfortunately, heads-down distraction from electronics and lack of visual awareness are the main contributing factor we will continue to see as instructors become less experienced and the FAA’s push to ADS-B dependence becomes more expansive.
Roger D says
I differ in opinion from you, sir. I am a commercial pilot that flies in very busy airspace. There are times that I have received a warning from the ADS-B of an aircraft on my iPad and not been able to visually locate the aircraft, even though I have been informed by the ADS-B warning exactly where to look for said aircraft. ADS-B traffic alerts competent pilots well in advance of a possible conflict before the naked eye can even see the opposing aircraft. I credit ADS-B with increased awareness, not as you say flying with my head down. It takes only a split second to look at the iPad, attached to the yoke, then return my sight outside the airplane and in the direction of the possibly conflicting traffic. In my opinion, ADS-B and it’s traffic alerts have made flying safer. I think it should be expanded to be required by all aircraft. There are too many aircraft in the skies for the “see and avoid” protocol to be used safely.
Earl Tuggle Sr says
That “…split second…” you spent heads down looking at your iPad could be the see and avoid split second that saves your life. I’ve flown with ‘competent’ pilots TOTALLY focused on finding ADS-B traffic not remotely conflicting with their flight path, just because it shows up on their electronics. Electronics that are frequently placed in positions that further restrict outside visual scan ability.
So sad another accident ?? We could ask why? However the accident chain is alive and well!!! If anything I would say why was the Warrior low over the lake that the sea planes use as a check point before landing ? The J-3 was at 500 feet AGL. The Warrior was on down wind to base at 850 feet MSL? …….The Warrior was making short approach so it was lower then normal? With only 150 feet separation it was an accident waiting to happen! It took 60 years but it happened! Who was wrong? A tough one for the NTSB and now how to prevent it from happening again……? Yes the accident chain is alive and well. May they all RIP!
Jimmy Jemail says
Everytime I flew a Cub I always carried a portable radio. ADSB is great but portable radio seems to me essential equipment when flying in any environment.
The FAA will never admit that the false sense of security and heads down preoccupation ADS-B promotes is a factor in the apparent increase in near misses and mid-airs.
Perhaps the NTSB will.
Unfortunately, the instructor’s radio calls indicate everything one needs to know about misplaced dependence on radios in ‘non-controlled’ airspace.
Allan Kidd says
Legal to fly without a 2 way radio? Yes. Smart? NO!
Philip Potts says
You already said this. The question is; what relevance to this accident.
*See and avoid is more difficult Head on than from the side.
*Were the landing patterns flown properly.
*Does compliance play a roll in a familiar conflicting traffic pattern
I prefer to hear from NTSB.