On December 18, 1996, about 0805 Pacific standard time, N6043M, a Beech BE-77, operated by the Blue Sky Flying Club, Inc., Spokane, Washington, collided in flight with N5949E, a Cessna 182R, operated by Felts Field Aviation, Inc., Spokane, while both airplanes were flying about 10 miles north of Spokane. The Beech was substantially damaged and the Cessna received minor damage. The solo student pilot flying the Beech and the commercial pilot flying the Cessna were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plans had been filed for either flight. Both airplanes departed from Felts Field in Spokane. The Beech was maneuvering on a local instructional flight, operating under 14 CFR 91. The Cessna was climbing, en route to Sand Point, Idaho, and was operating under 14 CFR 91 on a positioning flight.

According to the student pilot, who was flying the Beech Skipper, he was practicing ground reference maneuvers and engine-out emergency procedures in preparation for his FAA Private Pilot Practical Examination. He stated that he had just completed a turn to the south and was at 4,000 feet above mean sea level (about 1,500 feet above the ground) when he "...heard the Cessna's prop scream by over head and a thud which sounded like a snow ball hitting a fender."

The Beech pilot stated that he did not see another airplane immediately before, during, or after the collision. He stated that he had performed a clearing turn and then three S-turns prior to the collision. He also stated that he first thought the encounter may have been turbulence, and that the airplane "flew better" following the collision. After landing uneventfully back at Felts Field, he noticed that the entire right elevator of the Beech was missing and the right horizontal stabilizer was damaged.

The pilot of the Cessna Skylane stated that he was climbing after departure from Felts Field when he felt a "thump." He stated that he was programming the coordinates of his destination airport into the airplane's global positioning satellite (GPS) equipment at the time of the collision. He estimated that he was about 7 to 10 miles north of Felts Field at the time, and he did not recall hearing any advisories from the Felts Field ATC Tower concerning other traffic in his area.

The Cessna pilot stated: "I saw a quick, small, white flash out of the corner of my right eye. It was at the very lower portion off the right window. At about the same instant, I heard a loud bang. I knew instantly that something had hit me. I turned to the right and looked back, but I did not see anything." He stated that he first thought that the encounter may have been a bird strike. He noticed that about one-half of the Cessna's right main landing gear was missing, so he performed an emergency landing back at Felts Field.

An examination of the Beech revealed tire rubber and paint transfer marks on the leading edge of the right horizontal stabilizer. The leading edge of the outboard portion of the horizontal stabilizer exhibited "accordion" crush damage aftward and upward. The right elevator had been torn off and was not recovered.

An examination of the Cessna revealed that the right main landing gear had been sheared in half. The section that included the lower strut and wheel assembly was not recovered.

Neither airplane was communicating with, or being tracked by, air traffic control, and no discreet transponder codes were assigned to the airplanes. The Safety Board requested and received FAA recorded radar data from the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center. Numerous primary and secondary radar hits were recorded about the time of the accident; however, definitive identification of the airplanes could not be performed, and no continuous radar tracks were found.

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