NTSB Identification: MIA00FA103A
Accident occurred Thursday, March 09, 2000 in SARASOTA, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/04/2001
Aircraft: Cessna 172K, registration: N79960
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

At 1024:46, the pilot of N89827 called the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), Sarasota, Florida, ground control/clearance delivery controller (GC) requesting a visual flight rules departure. N89827 originated at the Dolphin Aviation ramp, which is located on the south side of SRQ. At 1025:24, the SRQ GC instructed N89827 to 'taxi to runway [14].' Taxiway A, which is adjacent to the Dolphin Aviation ramp, runs parallel to runway 14 and joins it at the end. N89827 proceeded to runway 14 via taxiway A. As the GC issued the taxi instructions to N89827, he was relieved by the supervisor/ground controller (SGC). The GC provided a relief briefing to the SGC and left the tower cab. At 1028:03, the pilot of N79960 transmitted to ground control that he was 'at [J]ones and ready to taxi.' The Jones Aviation ramp is on the north side of SRQ; aircraft originating at the Jones Aviation ramp intending to use runway 14 are normally assigned intersection departures from taxiway F. The Aeronautical Information Manual, Pilot/Controller Glossary, defines an intersection departure as 'a departure from any runway intersection except the end of the runway.' (The pilot in the right front seat of N79960 held a pilot certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA]. The pilot in the left front seat held a pilot certificate issued by the Canadian Civil Aviation Authority. Although the investigation could not determine which pilot in N79960 was operating the controls, only the right seat pilot was certified by the FAA; therefore, he was the only pilot on board authorized to act as pilot-in-command. Accordingly, this brief will refer to the right seat pilot as 'the pilot' and the left seat pilot as 'the pilot-rated passenger.') At 1028:45, the SGC cleared N79960 to 'taxi to runway [14].' N79960 held at the intersection of runway 14 and taxiway F. Although the pilot's reported position at the Jones Aviation ramp would suggest an intersection departure at taxiway F, the SGC annotated the flight progress strip for N79960 to indicate that it would be positioned for takeoff from the approach end of runway 14. The SGC told investigators after the accident that he did not recall N79960 originating at the Jones Aviation ramp and that his issuance of the taxi instructions to runway 14, with no mention of the taxiway F intersection, indicated that he must have thought that the airplane was originating at the Dolphin Aviation ramp. At 1030:42, the pilot of N89827 made his first contact with the local controller (LC), stating that he was 'ready for takeoff.' (About the time of this transmission, another airplane, a Cessna 172, N52553, was positioned behind N89827 on taxiway A waiting for departure.) At 1032:46, the pilot of N79960 made his first contact with the LC, stating, 'we're number two ready for takeoff.' (About the time of this transmission, N79960 was positioned behind another airplane, N5287V, which was on taxiway F waiting for an intersection departure.) At 1033:57, the LC instructed N89827 to 'taxi into position and hold' and stated, 'traffic will depart downfield also.' At 1034:22, the LC cleared N5287V for takeoff from the taxiway F intersection. After N5287V's departure, at 1034:43, the LC cleared N89827 for takeoff from the approach end of runway 14. At 1034:47, the pilot of N89827 acknowledged the takeoff clearance. At 1034:51, the LC instructed N79960 to 'taxi into position and hold' on runway 14, which the pilot acknowledged. About 6 1/2 seconds elapsed between the two pilots' transmissions. According to a postaccident interview with the LC, on the basis of the information in the flight progress strip, he believed that N79960 was positioned for takeoff at the approach end of runway 14. When N89827 began its takeoff roll from the approach end of runway 14, the LC erroneously believed that it was safe to instruct N79960 to taxi onto the runway for departure. Witnesses stated that when N89827 obtained takeoff speed near the 6,000-foot remaining marker (about 200 feet from the collision point), N79960 entered the runway from a taxiway (F) on the left side of the runway. Witnesses further stated that N89827 lifted off and turned to the right in what appeared to be an attempt to avoid a collision with N79960. Witnesses indicated that N89827 appeared to stall and that the left wing dropped to a wings-level attitude. About 15 seconds after N79960's acknowledgement of the taxi-into-position-and-hold clearance, a loud burst of static and an emergency locator transmitter signal can be heard on the air traffic control voice tape. N89827 impacted the top of N79960 on runway 14 at the taxiway F intersection. N89827's propeller contacted N79960's aft cabin roof, inboard wing flaps, and fuel tanks. Upon impact, a fire immediately erupted in N79960's fuel tanks. N79960 flipped inverted over the left wing and nose of N89827, and N89827's propeller separated from the engine. The two airplanes came to rest about 75 feet down the runway from the initial impact point on about a 300-degree heading. N89827 was found inverted on the runway, and N79960 was found inverted on top of N89827.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The failure of the supervisor/ground controller and the local controller to provide effective separation between the accident airplanes on the runway, resulting in a collision during takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the pilot and pilot-rated passenger on board N79960 to ensure that the runway was clear of traffic before taxiing onto the runway. Also contributing to the accident was the failure of air traffic control guidance and procedures to incorporate redundant methods of verifying aircraft position for both controllers and pilots.

Full narrative available

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