NTSB Identification: LAX04FA301B
Accident occurred Sunday, August 22, 2004 in Malibu, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/25/2006
Aircraft: Pollard & Huntley Thorp T-18, registration: N7618T
Injuries: 3 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.

A Bellanca 7ECA Citabria and an experimental Thorp T-18 collided in flight during separate local area flights along the southern California shoreline. Both airplanes impacted the ocean in the area of the collision. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, with no visibility restrictions. Review of the recorded radar data showed the Citabria as a primary target with no mode C altitude reporting. The Thorp was identified as a secondary 1200 VFR beacon code with mode C altitude reporting. The Citabria's target radar track showed it flying south over the coastal hills until it intersected with the shoreline. At the shoreline, the Citabria's target passed in front of the Thorp's radar target and continued southbound until it was about 0.75 nautical miles (nm) offshore. The Citabria's radar target then turned left 180 degrees, heading back toward the north. The Thorp target flew along the coastline until about 8 nm northwest of the accident site. The target made a right 180-degree turn, and started to track back along the coastline. About 2 nm northwest of the collision point, the target's mode C reported an altitude of 2,400 feet mean sea level (msl). The target's mode C altitude radar return continued to increase in altitude until the radar track stopped. At this time, the separation between the two targets was about 0.5 nm. The radar track shows the Thorp's target continued eastbound along the coast in a slight climb, and the Citabria's target continued northbound until radar contact with the Thorp was lost at 1729:37, at an altitude of 2,900 feet msl. The radar target on the Citabria was lost at 1730:10. The radar tracks of both aircraft were approximately perpendicular in the last minutes of flight. Both aircraft impacted the water after the midair collision. The Citabria washed ashore on the beach. The Thorp impacted the water about 150 yards east of the Citabria and sank in about 20 feet of water. Both airplanes were destroyed during the collision and impact sequence with the water, and further damaged by tidal action prior to and during the recovery process. All flight control components and control surfaces for the Citabria were accounted for in the recovered wreckage. The left wing strut, which was white in color, was missing and not recovered from the ocean. An examination of the Citabria wreckage for paint transfer marks from the Thorp met with negative results. Examination of the Thorp was inhibited due to the damage to the airplane wreckage by the post accident impact with the ocean and the subsequent tidal action prior to and during the recovery process. The examination of the propeller revealed white in color paint transfers marks beginning close to the hub and extending outward toward the tip. At the tip of one of the blades there was a large gouge on the leading edge. An examination of the Thorp wreckage for paint transfer marks revealed a series of light blue paint transfers on the underside of the right horizontal stabilizer cap. The light blue paint was similar to the coloration of the Citabria. Both airplanes were operating in uncontrolled class 'G' airspace when the collision occurred.

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

The failure of both pilots to maintain an adequate visual lookout and their failure to see and avoid the other aircraft.

Full narrative available

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