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On February 9, 2001, about 0915 eastern standard time, an American Champion, 8KCAB Decathlon, N123WA, and a Flugzeugbau GMBH Extra 300, N301NL, collided while landing at Leesburg Municipal Airport, Leesburg, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and neither aircraft had filed a flight plan. Both aircraft received substantial damage, and the private-rated pilot-in-command and flight instructor-rated checkout pilot of the Extra 300 were not injured. The flight instructor-rated pilot of the Decathlon, the sole occupant, sustained minor injuries. N301NL originated from Sanford, Florida about 0800, and N123WA originated from Ocala, Florida about 0900.
According to the pilot of N123WA, at 15 miles out, inbound to the non-towered airport, he tuned his radio to the automated surface observing system, (ASOS) frequency to obtain the altimeter setting and winds, and then switched frequency to the common traffic advisory frequency, (CTAF) on which he called 5 miles out for a straight-in approach to runway 13. Additionally, he made calls at 3 miles out and on short final approach, flying the visual approach slope indicator, ( VASI) for glide slope guidance. He observed two aircraft in the traffic pattern, but only one of them was on frequency with him. After landing touchdown, he became aware of a loud noise followed by a loss of control of his aircraft. He came to rest inverted on the runway. A pilot ran over from the Extra 300 and, "Exclaimed that he had run into-landed on N123WA and had not seen N123WA at all."
According to the aft-seated pilot-in-command (PIC), of N301NL, as they approached the Leesburg airport, they called for an airport advisory, but got no response. They continued inbound to the airport and entered a downwind leg for runway 13 traffic where they saw another aircraft taxiing, and got a response from him. After about eight or nine circuits in the landing pattern, during their downwind leg for another circuit, they made a radio call and scanned for traffic. No other aircraft flying or on the ground was observed nor heard from on radio. When their wheels touched the runway, N123WA "just popped up" about 10 to 30 feet forward of them. He saw the impact and the red and white aircraft, (N123WA) flipped over the top of them and landed inverted. We continued upright for 200 to 300 feet further up the runway, exited the airplane, and ran to the other aircraft to help the other pilot. He stated that, "I did not see or hear any radio from any aircraft on the last two approaches, until [N123WA] popped up. Estimated time: 0915; Visibility unlimited."
According to three witness statements, neither aircraft was heard to transmit on 122.725. The manager of the fixed base operator on the field was within earshot of their UNICOM/CTAF base radio immediately before and at the time of the accident and remembered no calls.
According to two occupants of a Robinson R-22 helicopter hovering on the northeast side of the airport, no radio calls were heard on 122.725 for at least 5 minutes before the collision. They stated they may have missed a call from the Decathlon when he was on long final.
According to a deputy sheriff pilot who interrogated the check-out pilot of N301NL following the accident, when asked what frequency he was using in the traffic pattern, the check-out pilot answered 122.7. Thereafter, according to the sheriff, the check-out pilot guessed three or four additional frequencies, and on the fourth try, stated 122.725. The witness statements are an attachment to this report.
The pilot of N123WA held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane, single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument-airplane. He held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane, single-engine, multiengine, and instrument. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on December 6, 2000, with limitations for glasses for near vision.
The pilot of N301NL held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane, single-engine land, single-engine sea, airplane multiengine land, rotorcraft, and instrument-airplane. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on December 27, 2000, with limitations for glasses for near vision. He had recently bought the airplane and was receiving a new buyer check-out. He stated that he had accumulated 5.8 hours in the Extra 300 type aircraft in the previous two days, and the accident day was his third day of familiarization.
The check-out pilot of N301NL held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane, single-engine land, single-engine sea, airplane multiengine land, rotorcraft, and instrument-airplane. He held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane, single-engine and multiengine. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on October 10, 2000, without restrictions. He was an owner/salesman for the Sanford, Florida, based airplane dealer who sold the airplane to the PIC.
The two-place, tandem configured, Extra 300 aircraft was designed to solo from the rear seat, and therefore the radios and most flight and aircraft system instruments and controls are installed in the rear cockpit. The opposite is true of the Decathlon, which is also a two-place, tandem configured aircraft. Both aircraft were equipped with shoulder harnesses, and were being used.
The Leesburg METAR for 0853 showed clear skies, 10 statue miles visibility, winds from 160 degrees at 4 knots, temperature was 64 degrees F, dew point was 57 degrees F, and altimeter setting of 30.27 inches Hg.
The current chart for visually navigating in the Leesburg area at the time of the accident was the Jacksonville Sectional Chart, dated September 7, 2000, which depicted the Leesburg Regional Airport's UNICOM/CTAF frequency as 122.7. The airport manager of the Leesburg Regional Airport changed its UNICOM/CTAF frequency from 122.7 to 122.725 on September 27, 2000, and duly notified the Aeronautical Information Services Division, (ATA-100), National Flight Data Center, of the Federal Aviation Administration. The National Flight Data Center published the frequency change in the National Flight Data Digest, (NFDD) dated October 2, 2000. A chart bulletin for the Jacksonville Sectional Chart was published in the Southeast Airport/Facility Directory, (A/FD) effective 30 November 2000. The chart bulletin advised the public of the changes to the Jacksonville Sectional Chart, one of which was the Leesburg airport frequency change to 122.725. The notice of frequency change was carried in the A/FD until the new Jacksonville Sectional Chart was published on February 22, 2001, at which time it was depicted next to the airport symbol.
According to the airport manager, for about 2 months subsequent to the frequency change, the counter person at the FBO monitored both frequencies, 122.7 and 122.725 and advised uninformed pilots of the change to 122.725. This procedure ceased once the Southeast A/FD that advised of the frequency change became effective.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The point of impact was 663 feet beyond the arrival end of runway 13, very close to runway centerline. Examination of both aircraft revealed that initial impact was between the Decathlon's rudder and the Extra 300's right wing root leading edge simultaneously with the Extra's propeller impact along the Decathlon's left side empennage and fuselage. The Decathlon was on all three landing gear, into its landing deceleration, and the impact propelled it airborne into a nose high attitude that culminated in a half aileron roll. It came to rest 23 feet left of runway centerline, 369 feet further down the runway from initial impact, inverted, on its wing leading edge and forward edge of its cowling, headed 105 degrees. The Extra 300 continued 490 feet further down the runway from initial impact, coming to rest 59 feet right of runway centerline, outside the white boundary lines, but still on the edge hardtop, heading 125 degrees. The right wheel/ brake assembly was sheared from its landing strut during the skid. The Extra 300 propeller's three blades had shattered about 15 inches outboard of the hub, and pieces were found at the initial impact site. The propeller spinner's front half was torn off and small pieces of spinner were strewn on the runway. Both aircraft had 122.725 displayed on their communication radios when the NTSB arrived on the scene. A satisfactory radio check was made on 122.725 from both aircraft to the FBO's base radio, postcrash.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The Aeronautical Information Manual, Chapter 4, "Air Traffic Control", recommends the following traffic pattern operations for airports without an operating control tower; I. (4-1-9, b,1) The key to communicating at an airport without an operating control tower is selection of the correct common frequency, (CTAF). II. (4-1-0,b,2) The CTAF frequency for a particular airport is contained in the A/FD, Alaska Supplement, Alaska Terminal Publication, Instrument Approach Procedure Charts, and Instrument Departure Charts. Also, the CTAF frequency can be obtained by contacting any FSS. III. (4-3-4) Enter pattern in level flight, abeam the midpoint of the runway, at pattern altitude. (1,000 agl, is recommended pattern unless established otherwise). Maintain pattern altitude until abeam approach end of the landing runway on downwind leg. Complete turn to final at least 1/4 mile from the runway.
N123WA and N301NL were released to their respective owner/operators on February 10, 2001, and both owner/operators acknowledged receipt by their signatures on NTSB Form 6120.15.