Poor lookouts equal a mid-air collision

General Aviation News will often print excerpts from US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident reports including one dated September 2009 about a mid-air collision involving a Piper Warrior and a  Cessna 152 in Coolidge, Arizona that led to one fatality and one serious injury.

According to the report, the two aircraft were on simulated instrument flights in visual flight conditions doing lessons where the pilot in the left-seat had to wear a vision-restricting instrument training hood while the pilot in the right seat acted as a safety/lookout pilot. Moreover, the flights were taking place in airspace that had high density student training.

The accident itself occurred when the Piper rolled out of a right turn while practicing a holding pattern at a non-controlled airport while the Cessna pilot practiced departing a non-controlled airport to reach cruising altitude. Moreover, neither of the aircraft were under radar traffic advisories or in contact with controlling FAA facility but the Piper’s pilots later indicated they were monitoring the correct practice frequencies while the Cessna’s surviving pilot could not recall if he had made any position calls (However, his radio was set to the correct frequency).

The collision caused the Cessna’s right wing to penetrate the lower left engine cowl of the Piper while the Piper’s left main landing gear wheel and tire slammed into the right side of the Cessna’s aft fuselage. The collision’s impact also tore off part of the Cessna’s right wing and tail – causing it to crash while the pilots of the Piper were able to do a power-off forced landing.

Although the weather was reported as clear skies with 10 miles visibility, none of the surviving pilots said they had seen other aircraft before the collision occurred. Hence, the probable cause of the accident was ruled the failure of both the safety/spotter pilots to look out for and avoid other aircraft within the busy training airspace. In other words and even in perfect flying conditions, always be on the lookout for other aircraft.

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