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On December 4, 1994, at 1430 hours Pacific standard time, a Grumman AA5, N6353L, collided with a Great Lakes 2T-1A-2, N3537L, while on final approach for landing at Santa Paula, California. Both aircraft were owned and operated by their respective pilots and were on local personal flights. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for either operation. The certified private pilot, the sole occupant, in N6353L was not injured. The certified private pilot, the sole occupant, in N3537L sustained minor injuries. The flights originated from the Santa Paula airport at 1400 and 1415 hours, respectively, on the day of the accident.
The pilot of N6353L stated that he was on an extended 1 mile final approach to runway 22 and, using the 122.9 VHF CTAF frequency, had reported number three to land behind a Citabria. He had crossed the field boundary and was beginning to initiate his flare over the numbers at 25 feet agl when he heard a pilot report "short final" and he saw the wing of another aircraft come into view from the left. Before he could react, the two aircraft collided. After the collision, his aircraft continued toward the runway in a nose-low, left wing-low attitude. He stated that following initial impact his nose gear collapsed and the aircraft slid off the south side of the runway, coming to rest while facing the runway on a heading of about 310 degrees. After coming to rest, he was able to exit the aircraft without assistance.
The pilot of N3537L reported that he had entered the pattern on an extended downwind, reporting his position as over the "junkyard" on the 122.9 VHF CTAF frequency. He stated that he communicated with the pilot of a Cessna 170 who was also entering the pattern and whose position was to the rear and to the right of his own. The pilot of the Cessna 170 responded by agreeing to continue his pattern outside of the Great Lakes since his aircraft was faster and was likely to overtake that aircraft. As the Great Lakes reached the midfield point, the pilot reported his position as over the "golf course" at a pattern altitude of 850 feet msl. He next reported his turn to base as being over the "bridge." Upon approaching the extended runway centerline, he reported turning final. The pilot reported that as he initiated his turn, he had not heard or seen any other traffic on final approach to runway 22.
The pilot continued his final approach, descending to about 25 feet agl over the approach end of the runway when he felt his aircraft "catch a wire." After the collision, the pilot stated that the aircraft's flight controls became unresponsive and that his aircraft pitched over, descending until it struck the runway left of the centerline and about 50 feet beyond the numbers. After impact, the aircraft skidded along the runway, rotating counterclockwise about 180 degrees and coming to rest on a heading of approximately 040 degrees.
After coming to rest, the pilot noted that a fire had broken out in the aircraft's engine compartment. Although experiencing severe back pain due to a spinal compression fracture, the pilot was able to exit the aircraft unassisted. The aircraft fire was contained by bystanders using handheld fire extinguishes. After exiting his aircraft, the pilot saw a damaged Grumman AA5 (N6353L) on the ground about 50 feet away at his aircraft's 2 o'clock position.
A witness to the accident who had landed ahead of both accident aircraft, reported hearing the pilot of a Great Lakes (N3537L) making position reports and stating that he intended to make a "close aboard" approach to runway 22 over the CTAF frequency. The witness stated that he had seen the Grumman (N6353L) in the pattern at what had been his 6 o'clock position as he made his turn from downwind to base. He did not report hearing any radio transmissions from the Grumman.
After completing his landing and making a right turn off to a parallel taxiway, the witness was taxiing back toward runway 22 when he saw two aircraft collide over the approach end of the runway. After the collision, he saw the Great Lakes (N3537L) "pancake" onto the runway collapsing its main landing gear. He said he saw the Grumman roll left about 110 degrees, then roll back to the right, descending until it struck the runway. Upon impact, the nose gear collapsed and the aircraft came to rest south of the centerline on an approximate heading of 310 degrees.
Both aircraft were using the Santa Paula 122.9 CTAF VHF frequency. The pilot of N3537L reported hearing the transmissions of other traffic, but stated that he did hear the N6353L's radio call. The pilot of N6353L reported hearing only the "short final" transmission before impact. There were several other aircraft on frequency at the time.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
A postaccident inspection of both aircraft by an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector reported that the Great Lakes (N3537L) had sustained collapsed main landing gear and an engine fire from the propeller aft to the firewall. The empennage exhibited some accordion-like crushing. The Grumman (N6353L) exhibited substantial structural damage to the outboard section of the left wing. The nose gear appeared to have collapsed laterally, from left to right. The propeller blade tips were curled forward toward the hub, the engine mount was fractured, and the empennage was buckled.