General Aviation Accident Bulletin

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Recent general aviation and air carrier accidents.

April 1, 2017, Edgewater, Fla.

Cessna 170B/Grumman AA-5B Tiger

At about 0842 Eastern time, the two airplanes were destroyed in an in-flight collision. The airline transport pilot flying the Cessna and the airline transport pilot flying the Grumman were both fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The airplanes were part of a five-ship formation flight. Shortly after establishing their initial V-shaped formation, the flight leader called for changing to a left echelon formation. In this formation, the airplanes are arranged diagonally to the flight leader’s left, with each airplane being stacked slightly low, behind, and to the left of the airplane ahead. To accomplish this evolution, the Grumman remained in its position slightly left and behind the leader, while the Cessna and the other two airplanes shifted. The Cessna was to be the number three aircraft, immediately to the left of the Grumman.

According to a fourth pilot in the formation, the Cessna moved into position behind the Grumman and he then saw “parts” coming back toward him on his right side. The Grumman abruptly pitched up with its nose past the vertical and went past him. He then observed something on the right side of the Cessna move upward before its tail began to “slew to the left” and it disappeared from view.

The accident site comprised a ¼-mile-long debris field. The Tiger and Cessna came to rest approximately 220 feet apart. The Cessna’s aft fuselage was completely separated from the rest of its structure, attached only by the control cables for the elevator, rudder and pitch trim. The leading edges of the Grumman’s propeller blades were damaged and displayed semicircular gouges.

April 2, 2017, Blue Earth, Minn.

Cessna 182 Skylane

The pilot reported that while approaching the destination airport, in night marginal visual meteorological conditions, he turned on the pilot-controlled runway lights. He began a descent to the runway, without observing the runway lights or airport, and encountered “ground fog” about 200 to 300 feet agl. He continued descending while referencing the moving map and GPS altitude on his electronic flight bag. Subsequently, while in a left turn, the airplane impacted terrain about one nm south of the runway.

An automated weather observing station, about 14 nm west of the accident airport, recorded visibility at 2½ sm, light rain, mist and an overcast ceiling at 300 feet agl.

April 4, 2017, Micanopy, Fla.

Pipistrel Virus SW

At about 0910 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted a pasture. The solo airline transport pilot was fatally injured. The flight departed Sebring, Fla., at 0800, headed for Clemson, S.C. Instrument conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan was in effect.

Radar data depict the airplane on a northerly track at about 8000 feet msl. The track ended at an east-west oriented line of severe thunderstorms and rain showers extending about 100 nm to either side of the track. The pilot was in contact with ATC throughout the flight; he did not transmit any distress calls.

A large section of the left wing was located on a farm about 4.5 miles south of the main wreckage. The left flaperon was not found. At 0853, the reported weather about 15 nm north of the accident site included thunderstorms, moderate rain, mist and wind from 100 degrees at 10 knots, gusting to 18 knots. The ceiling was broken at 4300 feet and overcast at 7500 feet. Visibility was five sm.

April 5, 2017, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Cessna T210M Turbo Centurion

The airplane experienced a landing gear collapse at 1410 Central time. The solo commercial pilot was not injured but the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, the airplane had been experiencing intermittent landing gear problems. The accident occurred at the end of a positioning flight to bring the airplane to a maintenance facility. Before the flight, the landing gear circuit breaker was pulled in order to keep the gear in the down position. Upon landing, the pilot noticed the left wing slightly dropped after touchdown, requiring a correction to maintain runway centerline. Then the right main landing gear slowly collapsed. The pilot was unable to maintain the airplane on runway centerline, and the airplane exited the runway surface. The airplane came to rest upright with its right main landing gear collapsed.

April 7, 2017, Oxford, Iowa

Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee 180

At about 1507 Central time, the airplane collided with terrain following a loss of control. The flight instructor and private pilot were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post-impact fire. Visual conditions existed near the accident site at the time of the accident.

A witness located about one mile east of the accident site stated he heard an engine popping and backfiring. The airplane appeared to be heading south-southeast but looked like it wasn’t moving. Its nose then dropped and it entered a “downward spiral.” The witness did not hear the engine at this point. The airplane made eight or nine spirals before it stopped rotating and continued in a nose-down descent. He lost sight of the airplane behind the hillside but heard the impact.

April 7, 2017, Atlanta, Ga.

Cessna 414

The airplane was substantially damaged at 1250 Eastern time when it landed gear-up. The solo airline transport pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot stated that he was at 400 feet agl on a one-mile final when airplane was cleared onto the runway in front of him. This was when the pilot normally would have completed his final pre-landing checklist, including fuel, flaps and landing gear. The pilot noted the wind was “howling,” with gusts to 25 knots. The other airplane was a “distraction,” and he did not perform his final landing checklist after it cleared the runway. At touchdown, the pilot felt the airplane settle. When the airplane came to a stop, the pilot reported that the landing gear handle was in the down position and the circuit breaker was in the off position. Both engines and propellers were damaged, as was the underside of the fuselage and the landing gear doors.

April 7, 2017, Harrisburg, Ore.

Piper PA-46-310P Malibu

At about 1046 Pacific time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain during an instrument approach. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed and an IFR flight plan was in effect.

Preliminary weather reports indicate the airplane was landing in conditions that included strong winds, moderate-to-severe turbulence and low-level wind shear accompanied by precipitation and mountain obscuration due to clouds/mist/precipitation. Several witnesses located near the accident area reported they observed the airplane flying at a treetop level.

April 8, 2017, Sanford, Fla.

Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser

The airplane was destroyed by impact and a post-crash fire at about 1256 Eastern time during a takeoff attempt. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

A witness recorded the flight on his cellular telephone; the video corroborates the witness. According to him, the “airplane accelerated normally for takeoff, pitched up, and continued to pitch up into a full stall, rolled to the right and nosed in....” A post-impact fire ensued. The accident flight was the first one following a two-year restoration of the airplane, which included replacement of the wing and fuselage fabric, flight control cables and electrical wiring.

Manipulating the elevator cables resulted in a nose-up control input deflecting the elevator in the nose-down direction, and vice versa. Examination revealed the elevator control cables were improperly rigged, and were attached to the incorrect (opposite) locations on the upper and lower elevator control horn.

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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