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On December 7, 1997, approximately 1453 mountain standard time, a Pitts S-2B, N693SB, owned/operated by a private owner, and a Cessna P206A, N2664X, owned/operated by a private owner, collided in-flight near Bozeman, Montana. N693SB was destroyed and the private pilot was fatally injured. N2664X was destroyed, the commercial pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Both flights were being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area where the accident occurred. The flight of N693SB originated from Gallatin Field, near Bozeman, Montana, approximately 19 minutes before the accident. N2664X was en route to Red Lodge, Montana, from Whitehall, Montana, at the time of the accident. Neither pilot had filed a flight plan.
The radio log, which was kept by the Bozeman Weather Station at Gallatin Field Airport, indicated that the pilot of N693SB announced at 1418 that he was taxiing to runway 12. At 1434, the pilot of N693SB transmitted that he was departing from runway 12 and would be exiting the traffic pattern left, northbound. According to a witness, N693SB was observed performing aerobatic maneuvers near Montana State University campus. He then flew northbound and was observed by another witness flying close to and parallel to another airplane. Another witness reported seeing N693SB "tipping its wings (straight on its side) one way, then the other." This same witness observed N693SB continue north "doing tricks, when it suddenly went straight down."
Cessna N2664X radioed the Bozeman Weather Station on Gallatin Field, at 1445, that he "was just going by your station at 7,700 feet going eastbound for Red Lodge" and he was "climbing for the pass [Bozeman Pass, 6,002 feet]." Approximately 6 miles east-southeast of Gallatin Field, a witness, who was standing in his yard, observed the Cessna (N2664X) passing over his house flying on a heading of approximately 100 degrees. The witness reported that he observed the "Pitts closing [on the Cessna, N2664X] at about a 45 degree angle on the starboard forward quarter of the Cessna." The witness further stated that he "watched both planes for about 5 seconds, enough time to think that the Pitts was going to over fly the Cessna, as from the ground the Pitts looked so much smaller than the Cessna, he thought it must be 3,000 feet higher." The witness stated that from the time he first observed both airplanes until impact, "both planes maintained level flight and neither made any turns or abrupt maneuvers."
The pilot of N693SB had obtained an FAA registration certificate for his airplane on August 26, 1997. The pilot's personal flight logbook was not located; his flight time in acrobatic airplanes and/or this particular acrobatic airplane could not be determined. At the time of his last FAA medical, May 7, 1997, the pilot reported that he had 1,500 hours of flight experience with 30 hours during the last 6 months. The pilot of N693SB did have a private pilot's certificate with an instrument rating; he was required to wear corrective lenses while performing the duties of a pilot. It was not determined if he was wearing glasses at the time of the accident. The primary pilot's seat in a Pitts S-2B is the back seat; the airplane's manufacturer reported that visibility from the back seat of a Pitts S-2B is "good to the horizon or a few degrees below the horizon depending how tall the pilot is."
The pilot of N2664X was a commercial certificated pilot. His FAA medical records (his last medical was on September 17, 1996) indicated that he had 6,100 hours of flight experience with 30 hours during the last 6 months. He had a Statement of Demonstrated Ability (SODA - dated July 1984) for vision; he was required to wear corrective lenses while performing the duties of a pilot. It was not determined if he was wearing lenses at the time of the accident.
N693SB was a factory manufactured (September 26, 1986) Pitts S-2B bi-winged, two seat, acrobatic airplane. The airplane's dimensions are as follows: the upper wing was 20 feet in length, the lower wing is 19 feet in length, the airplane's length was 18 feet 11 inches, and the height was 6 feet 10 inches. The airplane was painted white on red; it was equipped with a rotating beacon, but not flashing strobes.
N2664X was a Cessna P206A mono-winged, 6 seat, utility airplane which was manufactured in 1965. The airplane was painted blue on white; it was equipped with a rotating beacon, but not flashing strobes.
The weather at Gallatin Field Airport at 1441 was: wind 230 degrees at 3 knots, 10 statute miles plus visibility, cloud cover was 9,000 feet 2/8s coverage and 25,000 feet 4/8s cloud coverage, temperature was 21 degrees F., and the dew point was 16 degrees F. The ground was snow covered. The sun, at 1500, was 35 degrees west of south and 14 degrees up from the horizon.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION
Gallatin Field Airport is co-located with the Bozeman VOR navigation beacon (112.2-BZN). Victor airways 86 and 365 depart this navaid on a heading of 110 degrees for 13 nautical miles, then turns to 066 degrees passing through Bozeman Pass for 20 nautical miles to the Livingston VOR. Victor airways are low route area navigation tracks which extend upward from 1,200 feet above the surface of the earth to, but not including, 18,000 feet MSL. They extend horizontally 4 nautical miles on each side of the center line of an airway.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The two airplanes impacted each other at an estimated altitude of 8,500 feet msl approximately over Wayne Edsall Airstrip (4,659 feet elevation and 2,600 feet in length). The Wayne Edsall Airstrip is located approximately 6 nautical miles east of the Bozeman VOR and approximately on the center line of Victor airways 86 and 365. The Pitts continued north for approximately .7 of a mile and came to rest in a snow covered field (elevation, approximately 4,800 feet) at coordinates 45 degrees 43 minutes 43 seconds north, 111 degrees 02 minutes 12 seconds west. Witnesses reported that the Pitts "tumbled end-over-end" during its decent to the earth's surface.
The upper right wing, the upper fuel tank, the right kabane strut were found in the debris field located southeast of the Pitts impact location. Flight control continuity could not be established due to the extent of the damage. Several pieces of Plexiglas were located along the trail of the Pitts debris and no preimpact distortions were identified in the pieces.
The Cessna continued eastbound for approximately .5 of a mile and came to rest in a snow covered field (elevation, approximately 4,800 feet) at coordinates 45 degrees 43 minutes 18 seconds north, 111 degrees 01 minutes 51 seconds west. Witnesses reported that the Cessna rotated 2 or 3 times about its vertical axis and then "tumbled to the ground."
The bottom of the Cessna's right wing had an approximate 40 inch slash in it, oriented right 135 degrees from the forward longitudinal axis. The wing slash started at the right wing lift strut anchor point and continued outboard and aft for approximately 3 feet. A second slash was identified (closer to the fuselage) in the right wing flap, and it had the same orientation as the slash on the wing. The right wing lift strut was found separated from the airplane, in the debris field, which was located approximately 400 feet west of the Cessna's impact location. It was found bent and with numerous striations on it.
The empennage was separated from the fuselage on an angle approximately 45 degrees from the aft longitudinal axis, with the separation plain starting 3 to 4 feet aft of the right wing flap and extending 6 to 8 feet behind the left wing flap. All the empennage components were located in the debris field west of the airplane's main impact point (coordinates 45 degrees 43 minutes 21 seconds north, 111 degrees 02 minutes 11 seconds west). Flight control continuity was established to the ailerons, and continuity to the elevator and rudder could not be confirmed due to their separation from the airplane. Several pieces of the Cessna's windscreen were examined and no preimpact distortions were identified.
The two airplanes came to rest approximately .5 miles from each other.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies and toxicological tests were ordered and performed. The autopsies were performed for the Gallatin County Coroner's Office by D.C. Lehfeldt, M.D., Bozeman, Montana. Toxicological tests were negative.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
FAA FAR 91.303 defines aerobatic maneuvers as "intentional maneuvers involving an abrupt change in an aircraft's altitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight." It also prohibits aerobatic flight over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement and within 4 nautical miles of the center line of any Federal airway.
Radar Data was not available in the Bozeman, Montana, area below 12,500 feet msl.
The wreckage of both airplanes were released to their respective owner's representative, on December 10, 1997.