LAX01FA101B
LAX01FA101B

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On February 15, 2001, about 1540 Pacific standard time, a midair collision occurred between a Cessna 152, N68763, and a Cessna 172N, N4686G, over the Pacific Ocean about 6 nautical miles (nm) south of the Long Beach Municipal Airport, Long Beach, California. Witnesses reported that following the collision both airplanes entered uncontrolled descents, impacted the water, and sank. The airplanes were rented from and operated by the same flight school, the Long Beach Flying Club & Flight Academy, and were destroyed. In each airplane a Long Beach Flying Club certified flight instructor (CFI) and a student sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plans were filed. The airplanes were operated under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 as instructional flights. The Cessna 152 departed from the Long Beach airport about 1513, and the Cessna 172 departed 13 minutes earlier.

At the time of the midair collision, a ship captain was located about 0.6 nm south of the entrance to the Long Beach harbor's eastern breakwater gate. The captain reported that he observed two airplanes flying about 0.3 miles south of the gate. He stated "one plane appeared to bank and turn directly into the other plane." Thereafter, they both descended into the water.

Several additional crewmembers on the ship with the captain also observed the collision. In summary, one crewmember verbally reported that the airplane flying westbound was smaller than the other airplane. Another crewmember reported that he believed one of the airplanes collided with the other airplane's tail section. After the collision, one of the airplanes spiraled out of control in an easterly direction, while the other airplane dove straight into the ocean on the west side of the channel.

An air taxi helicopter pilot, who was located near the Queen Mary, and who was departing with passengers for a southbound flight to Catalina, also observed the midair collision. The pilot reported that he observed two similar airplanes flying in the vicinity of the breakwater. One of the airplanes was performing counterclockwise orbits, like a turn about a point ground reference maneuver. This airplane had completed several circles over the same area. The other airplane was flying westbound in straight and level flight. However, the air taxi pilot indicated that he had only observed this airplane for 1 second before the impact occurred. The airplanes were between 800 and 1,000 above the ocean when they collided about 1540.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

Cessna 152 Crew.

The CFI worked for the operator on a freelance basis. He held a commercial pilot certificate with the following ratings: airplane single and multiengine land, and instruments. The pilot also possessed a CFI certificate for single engine airplanes. His last first-class aviation medical certificate was issued without restrictions in January 2001, at which time the pilot reported his total flight time was about 500 hours.

The student held a private pilot certificate with the following rating: glider. His last third-class aviation medical certificate was issued without restrictions in June 1999, at which time the pilot reported his total flight time was about 15 hours.

Cessna 172 Crew.

The CFI worked for the operator on a freelance basis. He held a commercial pilot certificate with the following ratings: airplane single and multiengine land, and instruments. The pilot also possessed a CFI certificate for single and multiengine airplanes, and instruments. His last second-class aviation medical certificate was issued in September 2000, with the limitation that he "must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision." On the issuance date, the pilot reported that his total flight time was about 8,300 hours.

The student held a private pilot certificate with the following rating: airplane single engine land. His last second-class aviation medical certificate was issued without limitations in June 2000, at which time the pilot reported his total flight time was about 320 hours.

The student's personal flight record logbook was recovered from the airplane wreckage, and by the accident date his total logged flight time was 349.9 hours. In pertinent part, the logbook indicated that the student's last recorded flight occurred on February 1, 2001, with the accident CFI. On six occasions from September 6 to February 1, the accident CFI had signed the student's logbook indicating that he had given the student dual flight instruction. In the "Remarks" section of the logbook for the last lesson, the CFI wrote the following statement: "Coordination Exercises. Chandelles, Steep Turns." The reference to performance of chandelles and steep turns was also noted on previous lessons by this CFI.

AIRPLANE INFORMATION

Both airplanes were maintained by the operator on an annual and 100-hour inspection basis. The operator was unaware of any outstanding squawks on either airplane. However, the daily squawk sheets were kept in the airplanes and were not recovered.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel reviewed the airplanes' maintenance logbooks. No current discrepancies were noted.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 1556, the Long Beach Municipal Airport reported its weather conditions as follows: few clouds at 3,500 feet; broken ceiling at 25,000 feet; visibility 10 miles; and wind from 190 degrees at 9 knots. The temperature/dew point was 57/43 degrees Fahrenheit.

COMMUNICATION

The FAA reported that none of its facilities had any communications with either of the accident airplanes following their departure from the Long Beach Municipal Airport.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The Cessna 152's main wreckage was found south of the Long Beach breakwater, and on the west side of the Queens Gate entranceway into the San Pedro Bay (Long Beach channel), at the following (approximate) global positioning satellite (GPS) coordinates: 33 degrees 43.169 minutes north latitude by 118 degrees 11.145 minutes west longitude. The wreckage was about 60 feet below sea level. The right aileron was found separated from the main wreckage.

The Cessna 172's main wreckage was also found south of the Long Beach breakwater. It was located on the east side of the Queens Gate entranceway into the San Pedro Bay (Long Beach channel) about 1,700 feet east-southeast (109 degrees, magnetic) from the Cessna 152, at the following (approximate) GPS coordinates: 33 degrees 43.021 minutes north latitude by 118 degrees 10.862 minutes west longitude. The wreckage was about 75 feet below sea level. The Cessna 172's location was located about 2,315 feet south (174 degrees, magnetic) of the east side of the Queens Gate entranceway into the San Pedro Bay (south of East Light FI R 2.5s).

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Cessna 152's crewmembers were recovered from the ocean on April 30, 2001. The Cessna 172's crewmembers were recovered on the day after the accident, February 16, 2001.

Postmortem examinations of the four crewmembers were performed by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. The toxicological examinations were performed by the FAA's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, which reported the following results:

Cessna 152 crew.

Ethanol was found in both crewmembers. The laboratory manager reported that its presence was from postmortem formation and not from ingestion; putrefaction was evident in the specimens. No evidence of drugs was found.

Cessna 172 crew.

No evidence of drugs or ethanol was found in specimens from the crewmembers. The laboratory manager reported that the specimens from the student exhibited putrefaction.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

Flight School Information and Procedures.

The operator, Candace A. Learned Enterprises, Inc., was doing business under an FAA air carrier operating certificate as the Long Beach Flight Academy. The academy's certificate authorized operation of an FAA approved pilot school for private, commercial, and instrument flight training. Neither of the accident students was enrolled in the school's approved flight training program. The students had rented the accident airplanes from the associated Long Beach Flying Club.

The FAA reported that the midair collision occurred in an established flight training area. The operator indicated that the flight instructors had been authorized to provide dual instruction in the area where the accident occurred.

Airframe Examinations.

Both airplanes sustained accordion-like structural deformation in an aft direction. The cabins of both airplanes, including the cockpits and instrument panels, were fragmented and destroyed. The Cessna 152's aft fuselage and its entire empennage were not recovered. The Cessna 172's engine and attached propeller assembly were observed by on scene divers. However, these components were not recovered.

All of the observed control cables exhibited broomstraw-like characteristics at points of separation or were intact. No evidence of any preimpact control system disconnection was noted. There was no evidence of fire.

Cessna 152.

Principal impact damage noted in the Cessna 152 consisted of a crush-like depression in the midspan portion of its right wing's leading edge. The depression extended from the wing's leading edge to the wing spar at its deepest point. The right aileron was found separated from the wing. There was a compressive buckle in a spanwise direction in the aileron's trailing edge. No evidence of other airborne impact signatures was found.

The following components exhibited signatures consistent with water impact and were principally undamaged except in the case of aluminum skin, which exhibited accordion-like compressive buckles:
1) propeller and attached engine assembly;
2) nose wheel and strut;
3) main landing gear wheels and struts;
4) left wing with attached aileron and flap assemblies;
5) left wing lift strut (not bent and attached at its upper wing fitting); and
6) right wing lift strut (not bent and attached at its upper wing fitting).

Cessna 172.

No principal impact point was observed in the Cessna 172. Both wings were principally devoid of skin and were accordioned from their leading edges to their spars. The left wing was crushed in a chordwise direction between its leading edge and its spar inboard of the lift strut attachment point. The left flap remained attached to the wing. The left wing lift strut was observed attached at both its upper and lower fittings. The right wing was also crushed in a chordwise direction and its main spar was fractured at its mid-span location. The right wing flap was found attached. Neither side of the airframe exhibited evidence of airborne impact signatures from the aft passenger compartment bulkhead rearward.

The following components exhibited signatures consistent with water impact and were principally undamaged except in the case of aluminum skin, which exhibited accordion-like compressive buckles:
1) entire empennage;
2) nose wheel with attached shimmy dampener and strut; and
3) main landing gear wheels and struts.

Radar Tracks.

A review of recorded FAA radar data was undertaken to search for targets on tracks consistent with the eyewitness reports. Numerous targets were observed in the general accident site area. Neither airplane's transponder was on a discrete code. Moreover, the FAA intermittently received altitude data that some of the Mode C transponder equipped airplanes had transmitted. Although several targets were noted flying in the area, no positive identification of the targets was made.

Right-of-Way Procedures.

The FAA's regulations for operating airplanes near each other and its right-of-way rules are published at 14 CFR Part 91.111 and Part 91.113. In pertinent part, the regulations indicate that pilots must comply with the following procedures:

Regarding operating near other airplanes, the FAA states that no person may operate an airplane so close to another airplane as to create a collision hazard.

Regarding right-of-way rules, the FAA states that, in general, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an airplane so as to see and avoid other airplanes. Accordingly, when a rule of this section gives another airplane the right-of-way, the pilot shall give way to that airplane and may not pass over, under, or ahead of it unless well clear. Also, when airplanes are converging at approximately the same altitude (except head-on, or nearly so), the airplane to the other's right has the right-of-way. When airplanes are approaching each other head-on, or nearly so, each pilot of each airplane shall alter course to the right. Finally, regarding overtaking, each airplane that is being overtaken has the right-of-way and each pilot of an overtaking airplane shall alter course to the right to pass well clear.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

All recovered airplane wreckage was released to the owner's assigned recovery agent on April 24, 2002. No parts were retained.

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