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On August 7, 2004, about 0912 eastern daylight time, a Cessna A150L, N6186F, and a Piper PA28-140, N95314, were substantially damaged when they collided during cruise flight, and impacted terrain in Kinnelon, New Jersey. The certificated private pilots on both airplanes were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for either flight. Both flights were personal flights conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
The Cessna departed from the Essex County Airport (CDW), Caldwell, New Jersey. The airport was equipped with an air traffic control tower. The airplane departed from runway 9, about 0905, and the pilot requested a northwest departure. The Piper departed Lincoln Park Airport (N07), Lincoln Park, New Jersey. The Lincoln Park airport was not equipped with an air traffic control tower. A witness reported that he observed the airplane depart runway 19, sometime between 0910 and 0915.
A witness near the accident site stated he observed an airplane flying in a northerly direction, and a second airplane flying in a westerly direction. As the airplanes converged, the second airplane banked to the left, and impacted the back of the first airplane. The second airplane immediately rolled to the left, and began a 45-degree-angle descent toward the ground. The witness observed, what he believed was the left wing hanging from the airplane as it descended. The first airplane began to descend, and then made a climbing left turn. The airplane then pitched down 90 degrees, and descended toward the ground. The witness added that he clearly heard "normal" engine noise from both airplanes prior to the accident. He also stated that the first airplane's engine noise became "quiet," just before it pitched down.
Another witness stated he observed two airplanes "really close" to each other, with one directly behind the other. The airplanes were descending, and the first airplane rolled inverted before it disappeared from his view. The second airplane disappeared below the trees, and reappeared shortly thereafter in a climb. The airplane seemed to pitch straight up, then straight down, toward the ground.
After the collision, the airplanes came to rest about 8 miles northwest of CDW, and 3 miles west-northwest of N07. Small portions of debris, which included two antennas that were mounted on the upper surface of the Piper's fuselage, and the Piper's rotating beacon, were strewn along a northwest heading, for about 1/4 mile.
There was no record of either airplane communicating with air traffic control, or each other at the time of the accident.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 40 degrees, 57.948 minutes north latitude, and 74 degrees, 21.678 minutes west longitude.
The pilot of the Cessna held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine-land rating. He reported 240 hours of total flight experience, on his most recent application for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate, which was issued on April 22, 2003.
Review of the Cessna pilot's logbook revealed that at the time of the accident, he had accumulated about 330 hours of total flight experience, which included about 7 and 22 hours in the accident airplane, during the preceding 30 and 90 days; respectively.
The pilot of the Piper held a private pilot certificate with ratings for single engine land and sea airplanes. He reported 590 hours of total flight experience, on his most recent application for an FAA third class medical certificate, which was issued on September 6, 2002.
Review of the Piper pilot's logbook revealed that at the time of the accident, he had accumulated about 830 hours of total flight experience, which included about 9 and 36 hours of flight experience, during the preceding 30 and 90 days; respectively.
The Cessna had been operated for about 11 hours since it's most recent annual inspection, which was performed on June 30, 2004.
The Piper had been operated for about 152 hours since it's most recent annual inspection, which was performed on August 1, 2003.
The weather reported at CDW, at 0853, was: winds from 300 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 10 miles, ceiling 8,500 feet overcast, temperature 16 degrees C, dew point 10 degrees C, altimeter 29.94 in/hg.
The airplanes impacted the ground about 750 feet apart, in two distinct wreckage fields. After an initial examination at the accident site, the airplanes were recovered to the Greenwood Lake Airport, West Milford, New Jersey.
The Cessna was painted predominantly white with an approximate 14-inche-wide orange-red stripe over an approximately 1-inch-wide orange-red stripe on the left and right sides of the fuselage. The fuselage sides above the stripe from the cockpit forward were painted blue. The outer 3 feet of the wing upper and lower surfaces had a blue check pattern, as did the upper half of the vertical stabilizer. The lower half of the vertical stabilizer was painted with an orange-red check pattern, and the horizontal stabilizers had alternating orange-red and white stripes.
The Cessna came to rest in a wooded area, on its nose, in an almost vertical orientation. The airplane exhibited severe compression buckling from the nose to the wing leading edge, with the engine pushed back into the cockpit. The empennage was partially separated from the fuselage and displaced onto the right side of the airframe. The left horizontal stabilizer was located in a tree, adjacent to the airplane.
All major portions of the Cessna were accounted for at the accident site. Both wings remained attached to the airframe; however, their respective leading edges were crushed aft. The rudder, and the leading edges of the right horizontal and vertical stabilizers sustained minor damage. The left horizontal stabilizer was deformed and the leading edge contained a "u" shaped indentation, and embedded tree debris. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the rudder, right horizontal stabilizer, and left and right ailerons, to the forward cockpit area.
The right landing gear tire exhibited scuffing on the inboard and outboard sides. The right brake caliper housing fractured at the lower attach bolt and was rotated forward about the upper attachment. The right landing gear strut fairing was fractured at the step with some deformation present between the step and the lower end, and could be rotated freely about the strut. The left landing gear tire also exhibited scuffing on the inboard and outboard sides.
The propeller was separated from the engine, and contained chordwise scratches and "s" bending. The cockpit switches for the navigation lights and rotating beacon were observed in the "on" position.
The Piper was painted predominantly white with a 3-inch red stripe flanked by 1-inch blue stripes running down the left and right side of the fuselage. The N-number was painted in red below the stripes between the wing and tail and the vertical tail had a 6 inch band of red and blue striping about two-thirds the way up. Similar striping was also present on the landing gear fairings and wing tip caps. The upper engine cowlings were painted blue and there was a black glare shield area immediately forward of the windshield.
The Piper came to rest inverted in a wooded area, and on a heading of about 345 degrees. All major portions of the Piper were accounted for at the accident site. The airplane was examined in three major pieces.
The main fuselage section from the nose to about 6 feet aft of the trailing edge of the wing included the right wing, flap and aileron. The nose and left main landing gear were separated from the airplane. The tail section included the horizontal and vertical stabilizers and attached rudder and elevators. The left wing and attached aileron was separated from the fuselage, while the left flap remained attached to the main fuselage section. The nose of the airplane sustained severe aft crushing type damage and the upper right side of the forward fuselage was crushed in a downward direction. The right wing exhibited significant impact damage to the leading edge adjacent to the inboard end of the aileron and the outboard section of the wing was deformed forward, and nose down in relation to the rest of the wing. The right aileron had some blue paint transfer on the upper surface and trailing edge about 3 feet outboard from the inboard end. There were some small areas of blue paint transfer on the upper surface of the left wing. The left and right wing control cables were continuous from the ailerons to the wing root and the aileron balance cable exhibited frayed ends consistent with a tension failure.
The left horizontal stabilizer remained attached to the empennage, but exhibited severe impact damage at the root with some tree debris embedded in the structure. The right horizontal stabilizer and vertical stabilizer had minimal damage. Rudder, elevator and trim tab flight control continuity was confirmed from the respective control surfaces to the point of their respective cable separations in the fuselage. The fuselage section and empennage were separated about 6 feet aft of the trailing edge of the wing. On either side of this break on the upper left side of the fuselage there were black transfer marks, consistent with a tire mark, for a distance of about 4 feet. At the center of the transfers the fuselage structure was crushed inward with compression type damage on the entire left side of the fuselage in the vicinity of the break. An approximate 8-inch, by 5-inch piece of sheet metal, which was located in the debris path was observed to matched with a fracture on the upper left side of the fuselage where the empennage separated.
The cockpit switches for the navigation lights and rotating beacon were observed in the "on" position.
The antennas were matched with the mounting bases on the upper fuselage and the rotating beacon was matched with the housing on the vertical stabilizer tip. The clear plastic was consistent with the window material on the Piper and the temperature gauge was consistent with the type normally installed in the Piper.
Flight control continuity was observed at the respective aileron bell cranks, elevator, and rudder control surfaces. Due to the impact damage, the flight control cables were not contiguous.
A handheld global position system (GPS) receiver was located in the cockpit of each airplane, and was forwarded to the Safety Board's Vehicle Recorders laboratory, Washington, District of Columbia, for examination
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies were performed on both pilots, on August 7, 2004, by the Morris County Medical Examiners Office, Morristown, New Jersey.
The toxicological testing reports from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol for both pilots.
Global Position System (GPS) Data and Cockpit Visibility Study
A Garmin GPS III, that was recovered from the Cessna, and a Garmin GPSMAP 295, that was recovered from the Piper, were examined by an NTSB Recorder Specialist. Flight data relevant to the accident was downloaded from the both GPS units.
The information that follows summarizes portions of the GPS Receiver, and Cockpit Visibility Study reports, which can be found in the public docket.
Data from the GPS III Pilot indicated that the Cessna took off from CDW, to the east, at approximately 0905:06, and turned north to fly a relatively steady northwest track until the time of the accident. No altitude data was available from this GPS unit. Data from the GPSMAP 295 indicated that the Piper took off from N07, to the south, at approximately 0908:50, and entered a climbing right turn beginning at approximately 500 feet GPS altitude, to fly a relatively steady track of 325 degrees. Initially, after the turn to the northwest, the Piper was flying ahead and below the Cessna. The Piper continued to climb on a track of 325 degrees to a maximum GPS altitude of 2,680 feet, while being overtaken by the Cessna. Data from both GPS units indicated that the two airplanes collided while in straight and level flight at approximately 0912:20.
Altitude data for the Cessna was obtained from recorded FAA airport surveillance radar for Newark, New Jersey. The radar data showed the Cessna climbing to 2,500 feet and leveling for one minute, before continuing the climb to level at 2,600 feet, approximately 2 minutes prior to the accident.
The radar and GPS data was utilized to determine the ground track and ground speed for each airplane, as well as the closure rate, relative azimuth and relative elevation between the two airplanes. A number of assumptions were required before the data could be utilized to determine if and when the pilot of one airplane could see the other, and where in the pilot's windscreen the other airplane would have appeared.
Airplane visibility charts created for the accident indicated that the pilot of the Cessna had an approximately 21-second opportunity to acquire the Piper, had he been scanning down and to his right, while cruising at 2,600 feet, and heading to the northwest. The Piper at this time was climbing on a southerly track from 375 to 700 feet. The pilot of the Piper had a 21 second opportunity to acquire the Cessna, if he had been scanning forward and to his left while climbing out from 725 to 975 feet, and turning from a course of 190 to 250 degrees, on departure to the west. The Cessna at this time was traveling to the northwest, and level at 2,600 feet. The two airplanes continued to converge until 0912:20, at which time the closure rate began to vary dramatically, consistent with a departure from controlled flight for at least one of the airplanes.
During this period, airplane airspeed dropped slightly, and aircraft bearing changed significantly, for both airplanes, from the constant steady state values they had been maintaining just prior to the upset. Data from the Cessna's GPS indicated that the airplane's groundspeed dropped from 94 mph to 39 mph and bearing changed from 330 to 313 degrees within this timeframe. Data from the Piper's GPS indicated that the airplane's groundspeed changed from 87 mph to 49 mph, and bearing changed from 325 to 298 degrees also within this timeframe. The calculations also showed that at no time after 0909:57, up until the time of collision, at 0912:20, could the pilot of either airplane see the other.
FAA Advisory Circular 90-48C, titled "Pilots' Role in Collision Avoidance," stated in part:
"(1) The flight rules prescribed in Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) set forth the concept of 'See and Avoid." This concept requires that vigilance shall be maintained at all times, by each person operating an aircraft, regardless of whether the operation is conducted under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) or Visual Flight Rules (VFR).
(2) Pilots should also keep in mind their responsibility for continuously maintaining a vigilant lookout regardless of the type of aircraft being flown. Remember that most mid air collision accident and near mid air collision incidents occurred during good VFR weather conditions and during the hours of daylight."
With regard's to clearing procedures, the advisory circular stated in part, that pilots should:
"(ii) During climbs and descents in flight conditions which permit visual detection of other traffic, execute gentle banks left and right at a frequency which permits continuous visual scanning of the airspace about them...."
Both airplanes were released on August 9, 2004, to representatives of their respective owners insurance company.