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On October 14, 2005, at 1405 eastern daylight time, an amateur-built Plavcan Lancair 235, N235U, and a Cessna 172L, N7768G, were destroyed during a mid-air collision near Rootstown, Ohio. The Lancair was conducting a personal flight. The Cessna was engaged in a dual instructional flight. Both flights were being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 without flight plans. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot and pilot-rated passenger in the Lancair, and the flight instructor and dual student in the Cessna were fatally injured. The Lancair departed Carroll County--Tolson Airport (TSO), Carrollton, Ohio, about 1345 with an intended destination of Portage County Airport (29G), Ravenna, Ohio. The Cessna departed Akron Fulton International Airport (AKR) about 1345 for the local flight.
A friend of the individuals in the Lancair reported that the accident pilot and his pilot-rated passenger flew from Geauga County Airport (7G8), Middlefield, Ohio, to TSO for lunch on the day of the accident. The friend stated that he flew a second airplane to meet them at TSO. He noted that after lunch his friends planned make a stop at 29G prior to returning to 7G8. He returned directly to 7G8, arriving there about 1430.
According to an individual at the flight school, the flight instructor and dual student were conducting a final flight lesson in preparation for a stage check scheduled for that afternoon. This lesson was to include instrument flight proficiency maneuvers and VOR orientation and tracking. He noted that the lesson began about 1300 and that the instructor had another student scheduled at 1500.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided radar track data depicting aircraft operating under visual flight rules (VFR) with transponder beacon codes of 1200 in the vicinity of the accident site. Review of this data revealed two radar targets whose flight paths appeared to intersect near the accident site at 1405.
The first track, which was associated with Lancair N235U, originated at 1349:41 (HHMM:SS), about 1.2 nautical miles (nm) southwest of TSO. The plot of the track data indicated that the flight proceeded northbound and climbed to approximately 2,400 feet pressure altitude. Final radar contact attributed to that aircraft was at 1405:05, located at 41 degrees 5.6 minutes north latitude, 081 degrees 11.7 minutes west longitude.
The second track, associated with Cessna N7768G, originated at 1345:56 over AKR. The flight proceeded eastbound and climbed to a maximum altitude of 3,300 feet pressure altitude. Track data indicated that the flight conducted several maneuvers and altitude changes. Final radar contact attributable to the aircraft was at 1405:05, located at 41 degrees, 5.6 minutes north latitude, 081 degrees, 11.7 minutes west longitude.
Two additional VFR radar targets were observed after the apparent intercept of the flight paths. The first was at 1405:10, 0.15 nm northwest of and at the same altitude as the final target attributed to N7768G. The second was at 1405:15, 0.23 nm northwest of and 500 feet below the altitude of the final target attributed to N7768G. Several primary radar targets were also observed in the same area between 1405:05 and 1405:15.
The Lancair fuselage came to rest at 41 degrees 6.0 minutes north latitude, 081 degrees 5.9 minutes west longitude. The Cessna fuselage came to rest at 41 degrees 5.9 minutes north latitude, 081 degrees 12.1 minutes west longitude. More detailed information is provided in the wreckage description section of this factual report.
A witness to the accident stated that he happened to look up shortly before the two aircraft collided. He reported that both aircraft appeared to be in straight and level flight prior to the impact. He noted that after the collision the Lancair entered an inverted, "slow flat" spin. The Cessna entered a "cartwheel type spin."
The Lancair pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating. He was issued a third-class airman medical certificate with a limitation for corrective lenses on July 9, 2004. He also held an experimental aircraft builder repairman certificate for N235U.
Review of the Lancair pilot's logbook determined that he had logged 500.8 hours total flight time as of the last log entry, which was dated September 18, 2005. He had logged 5.4 hours within the 30 days preceding the accident and 26.4 hours within 90 days of the accident. His logbook reflected approximately 421 flight hours in the accident airplane. The most recent flight review endorsement in the logbook was dated March 14, 2002.
The pilot-rated passenger on-board the Lancair held an airline transport pilot certificate with single and multi-engine land airplane class ratings, and a Learjet type rating. His single-engine rating was limited to commercial pilot privileges. He held a flight instructor certificate with single and multi-engine airplane, and instrument airplane ratings. He was issued a first-class airman medical certificate on February 1, 2005, with no limitations.
The Cessna flight crew consisted of a flight instructor and a dual student. The flight instructor held a commercial pilot certificate with single and multi-engine airplane, and instrument airplane ratings. He held a flight instructor certificate, issued on June 21, 2005, with single and multi-engine airplane, and instrument airplane ratings. He was issued a first-class airman medical certificate with no limitations on July 6, 2005.
Review of the instructor's logbook revealed he had completed the practical test for a multi-engine flight instructor rating on January 27, 2005, and the practical test for an instrument airplane flight instructor rating on January 28, 2005. The logbook indicated that he successfully completed a Part 141 proficiency check on July 6, 2005. He had a total logged flight time of 1,632 hours, with 712 hours of flight instruction given. He had logged 308 hours within the previous 90 days, and 6 hours within the previous 24 hours of the accident.
The dual student held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating issued on August 10, 2005. He was issued a third-class airman medical certificate on July 2, 2004, with a limitation that corrective lenses be worn. He had a total logged flight time of 93.7 hours. According to flight school records, the dual student was enrolled in a training course in preparation for the instrument airplane practical test. The record noted that he had completed 15.5 hours of instrument flight training.
The Lancair, N235U (serial number 001), was an amateur-built airplane constructed and owned by the accident pilot. The airplane was a single-engine, low-wing configuration with retractable tricycle landing gear. It was constructed primarily of composite (fiberglass) materials. The Lancair manual listed the airspeed normal operating range as 61 - 165 knots. The published never exceed speed was 215 knots.
The aircraft was issued an experimental airworthiness certificate on November 1, 2001. A conditional inspection was completed on December 28, 2004, at 364.7 hours. According to the aircraft logbook, Lancair N235U had accumulated 443.3 hours at the time of the most recent maintenance, which was conducted on September 23, 2005. The maintenance conducted included replacement of the engine spark plugs and the main landing gear tires.
An internet posting by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) stated that the builder of Lancair N235U, who was the accident pilot, was credited for outstanding workmanship in the category of custom-built kit airplanes at the EAA's Air Venture 2002 convention. The posting stated that the awards were intended to "signify excellence in construction and restoration."
The Cessna 172L, N7768G (serial number 17259468), was owned by Hobart Aviation Inc. and operated by American Winds Flight Academy as a training/rental aircraft. The Cessna 172L was a single-engine, high-wing configuration with fixed tricycle landing gear. The aircraft owner's manual stated that the cruise airspeed at 2,500 feet density altitude was 129 mph (112 knots) at 79-percent engine power. The published top speed was 140 mph (122 knots).
According to the aircraft logbooks, an annual inspection was completed on the accident airplane on August 23, 2005, at 4,424.5 hours total time. A 100-hour inspection was completed on September 27, 2005, at 4,519.1 hours total time.
Conditions recorded at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport (CAK), at 1351, were: Wind from 220 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 3,800 feet above ground level (agl) and broken clouds at 25,000 feet agl, temperature 18 degrees Celsius, dew point 11 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 30.06 inches of mercury. CAK was located approximately 15 nautical miles southwest of the accident site.
Conditions recorded by the Akron Fulton International Airport (AKR) Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), at 1354, were: Wind calm, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 3,800 feet agl, temperature 19 degrees Celsius, dew point 10 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 30.05 inches of mercury. AKR was located approximately 12 nautical miles west-southwest of the accident site.
Conditions recorded at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport (YNG), at 1351, were: Wind variable at 5 knots, visibility 8 statute miles, broken clouds at 3,500 feet agl and broken clouds at 5,000 feet agl, temperature 19 degrees Celsius, dew point 10 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 30.06 inches of mercury. YNG was located approximately 25 nautical miles northwest of the accident site.
Winds aloft measurements (atmospheric soundings) are taken at 12-hour intervals at several locations throughout the continental United States. The sounding location nearest the accident site was at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, located 56 nm southwest of the accident site. The 0800 and 2000 soundings were as follows:
Time: 0800 (1200 UTC - October 14);
Altitude: 2,670 feet;
Direction and speed: 345 degrees true at 7 knots.
Time: 2000 (0000 UTC - October 15);
Altitude: 2,612 feet;
Direction and speed: 285 degrees true at 12 knots.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION
The Akron Very-High Frequency Omnidirectional Range (VOR) navigational station was located approximately 1/2 nautical mile north of the accident site. Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) was also installed at the station. The Akron VOR/DME station (ACO) served as a fix for instrument approach procedures into Akron-Canton Regional (CAK), Portage County (29G), and Kent State University (1G3) airports.
VOR stations are navigational aids used by civil aircraft when operating in the U.S. national airspace system. In conjunction with Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), the system allows pilots to determine their position relative to the station.
The FAA practical test standards for an instrument rating require training and proficiency in intercepting and tracking VOR signals.
FAA air traffic control (ATC) personnel stated that there was no record of contact with or of ATC services having been provided to either of the aircraft involved in the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located in a rural, residential area located approximately 12 nm east-northeast of AKR. The debris field was located along Tallmadge Road (County Hwy 18), between Industrial Road (County Hwy 47) on the east and a line of railroad tracks on the west. The debris area was approximately 1/4 nm long by 3/16 nm wide. The site was about 1/2 nm south of the ACO VOR/DME station.
The location of major aircraft components was determined using a global positioning system receiver. Coordinates for those components are included below.
The Lancair fuselage was located at 41 degrees 5.961 minutes north latitude, 081 degrees 11.898 minutes west longitude. The engine was at 41 degrees 6.052 minutes north latitude, 081 degrees 12.005 minutes west longitude.
The Lancair came to rest inverted adjacent to a two-lane roadway located in a residential subdivision. Major aircraft components with the exception of the engine and a section of the right horizontal stabilizer were located with the fuselage. The nose of the aircraft was rotated upward relative to the airframe near the firewall.
The engine separated from the aircraft and impacted the yard of a residence approximately 740 feet northwest of the fuselage. The upper engine mounts remained attached to the engine. The lower mounts and nose landing gear support structure remained attached to the airframe. The mounts were deformed.
The propeller hub remained secured to the engine propeller shaft. Both blades were separated near the hub. Fragments of the wood core, composite skinned blades were observed within the debris field in the vicinity of the Cessna's left wing and empennage. One fragment consistent in appearance to the Lancair propeller blades was recovered from inside the Cessna's left wing.
A segment of propeller blade approximately 16 inches in length was recovered from the debris field. The blade was of a composite skin, wood-core construction similar to the blade section secured to the Lancair engine. A 20-inch long aircraft communications antenna similar to one installed on the Cessna was imbedded into the blade section about 5 inches from the blade tip.
The left wing remained attached to the fuselage. The wing skin was damaged, delaminated and buckled about mid span. The left aileron was dislocated and lying next to the wing. The left flap remained in place relative to the wing. The outboard and center hinges were separated from the flap. The inboard flap torque tube remained intact. The left main landing gear was in the retracted position and the gear doors were intact.
The right wing was dislocated from the inboard wing section, outboard of the landing gear. The right aileron remained attached to the wing, but was bent upward past its normal range of travel. The aileron control rod was bent. The right flap was separated at the outboard and center hinges. It remained attached at the inboard torque tube.
The dislocated right wing section exhibited red span-wise marks. The marks extended from the inboard end of the section to the outboard end. They were oriented along the span of the wing, in an area from the leading edge aft approximately one-quarter of the wing chord. The marks appeared similar to red trim paint on the Cessna aircraft.
The empennage of the Lancair was separated from the airframe forward of the horizontal stabilizer. The left horizontal stabilizer was intact. The left elevator remained attached to the stabilizer. The right horizontal stabilizer and right elevator were separated near the stabilizer root. The separated assembly was located in the debris path near Tallmadge Road. The rudder was intact and remained attached at the lower hinge fitting. The upper hinge was separated but appeared otherwise undamaged. The rudder control cables remained attached to the rudder.
Discontinuities in the flight control system were consistent with overload failures.
The aircraft's recording tachometer indicated 381.4 hours at the accident site. A recording hour meter was not observed during the on-scene investigation.
The Cessna airplane was fragmented during the accident sequence. The major components were the fuselage and engine, right wing, left wing, and empennage.
The basic fuselage, including the engine, came to rest inverted in an agricultural field adjacent to a residence. Located at 41 degrees, 5.942 minutes north latitude; 081 degrees, 12.085 minutes west longitude, the fuselage was approximately 865 feet west of the Lancair. Terrain outside of the immediate vicinity of the wreckage was not disturbed. The upper surface of the engine cowling was deformed onto the engine, generally conforming to the shape of the engine. The fixed-pitch, aluminum propeller was intact and remained secured to the engine crankshaft. Both blades exhibited S-bending. A gouge was observed in the leading edge of one blade near the tip.
The right wing came to rest upright at 41 degrees, 5.868 minutes north latitude; 081 degrees, 11.920 minutes west longitude, in the backyard of a residence, approximately 880 feet southeast of the fuselage. The right wing separated at the root. The wing strut separated from the wing attachment fitting. The aft inboard portion of the wing was deformed outboard. Approximately the inboard one-third of the flap was torn outboard and deformed. The outboard two-thirds of the flap remained attached to the wing. The wing was bent upward over the outboard one-quarter of the span. The wing skin was torn and buckled in that area. The aileron remained attached to the wing.
The left wing came to rest upright at 41 degrees, 5.844 minutes north latitude; 081 degrees, 11.821 minutes west longitude, in a field south of Tallmadge Road. It was approximately 1,350 feet southeast of the fuselage. The wing separated at the root. The aileron and flap remained attached to the wing. A section of the aileron was crushed forward and inboard at a point about mid-span. The flap was deformed and dented. The fuel tank was completely dislodged from the wing and was observed split into its upper and lower halves.
The inboard section of the leading edge, about 4 feet in length, was separated from the left wing, exposing the forward wing spar in that area. The remaining attached leading edge section exhibited a straight and clean inboard edge consistent with a cut or propeller slash. The cut edge was angled approximately 30 degrees relative to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft.
The left wing exhibited a cut through the leading edge, extending about 7-1/2 inches aft into the wing section. The cut was located about mid-span and was angled approximately 35 degrees relative to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft. The cut angle was oriented outboard-to-inboard from the leading edge aft.
A puncture approximately 4 inches by 4 inches in size existed in the upper wing skin immediately aft of the wing spar, adjacent to the outboard end of the missing leading edge section. A 1 inch square piece of debris was located inside the wing panel and was removed through the puncture. The piece of debris consisted of a composite face with a wood core consistent with the Lancair's propeller.
The empennage was separated from the airframe and came to rest at 41 degrees, 5.859 minutes north latitude; 081 degrees, 11.875 minutes west longitude. It was located approximately 1,089 feet southeast of the fuselage in the yard of a residence south of Tallmadge Road. The horizontal stabilizer was intact and the elevators were attached at the hinges. The vertical stabilizer remained attached at the base. The skin on the right side of the vertical stabilizer was torn. The rudder remained attached at the center and lower hinges. The rudder was deformed.
A section of fuselage skin containing a portion of the registration number from the left side of the airplane exhibited scrape marks. The marks were oriented longitudinally.
The roof section of the airframe and the cabin doors were separated from the fuselage and came to rest in the vicinity of the wings south of Tallmadge Road.
Flight control cable separation points exhibited fraying consistent with overload failures. The bellcrank connecting the rudder to the right control cable had failed. The cable remained attached to the separated segment of the bellcrank. Appearance of the fracture surface was consistent with an overload failure.
The recording hour meter was damaged and not readable when observed at the accident site.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the Lancair pilot was conducted at the Cuyahoga County coroner's office, Cleveland, Ohio, on October 15, 2005. The FAA Civil Aero Medical Institute (CAMI) toxicology report for the Lancair pilot noted the presence of Atenolol in blood and urine samples. Atenolol is used to treat high blood pressure. The medication may also be used for irregular heartbeats, heart failure, migraine headache prevention, or tremors.
An autopsy of the Lancair pilot-rated passenger was conducted at the Cuyahoga County coroner's office, Cleveland, Ohio, on October 15, 2005. The FAA CAMI toxicology report for the pilot-rated passenger was negative for all substances tested.
An autopsy of the Cessna flight instructor was conducted at the Summit County medical examiner's office, Akron, Ohio, on October 15, 2005. The FAA CAMI toxicology report for the Cessna pilot was negative for all substances tested.
An autopsy of the Cessna pilot (dual student) was performed at the Summit County medical examiner's office, Akron, Ohio, on October 17, 2005. The FAA CAMI toxicology report for the Cessna pilot was negative for all substances tested.
RESEARCH AND TESTING
Radar track data depicted the aircraft on converging ground tracks at between 2,300 and 2,500 feet pressure altitude. Cessna N7768G executed several turns and altitude changes during the last 10 minutes of the flight, consistent with attitude instrument flight training. Approximately 1401:42, while indicating 1,900 feet, N7768G entered a left-hand turn. The radar mode-C returns indicated that the aircraft climbed from 1,900 feet to 2,500 feet during the turn. The aircraft exited the turn about 1404:16, at 2,500 feet. Radar returns between 1404:16 and 1405:05 indicated that N7768G was level at 2,500 feet and on a true course of approximately 295 degrees, at a ground speed of approximately 100 knots. The final radar return attributable to N7768G was at 1405:05 and indicated 2,500 feet.
Lancair N235U was established on a northerly track following takeoff. The flight continued on this northerly track until the accident. The aircraft's altitude returns varied from 2,300 feet to 2,500 feet during the flight. The final radar return attributable to N235U was at 1405:05 and indicated 2,300 feet. Radar returns between 1404:56 and 1405:05 indicated that the aircraft's true course was approximately 356 degrees, at a ground speed of approximately 145 knots.
Using the radar track data, the positions of each aircraft relative to the other at discrete time intervals were determined. Based on this comparison, during the final one minute prior to the accident, the Cessna was positioned approximately 45 degrees right of the Lancair's nose. Referenced to the face of a clock, with 12 o'clock being directly ahead, this correlated to a 1:30-2:00 o'clock position. Conversely, the Lancair was positioned approximately 80 degrees left of the nose of the Cessna airplane; about a 9 o'clock position.
Radar track data indicated that the Lancair was in approximately level flight from 1404:50 until the final data point at 1405:05. The data indicated that the Lancair descended about 100 feet prior to that time, between 1404:36 and 1404:50. During this time period, the distance between the data points decreased from approximately 1 nm to about 0.5 nm. The radar track data suggested that the Cessna was in approximately level flight from 1404:16 until the final data point attributable to the airplane at 1405:05.
Radar mode-C altitude returns for both airplanes were processed and compared. The data indicated a 200-foot altitude difference at the final data point prior to the collision. Altitude difference values between the airplanes were reduced by that amount at all data points in order to accommodate that difference. The relative elevation angle from one airplane to the other was computed based on the adjusted altitude difference and the aircraft spacing. Relative elevation angles between the airplanes was estimated to be less than 2 degrees within 1 minute of the collision.
Cessna Aircraft Company provided a Pilot View Chart for the 172, which depicted the limits of the pilot's field of view when seated in the aircraft. The data presented was relative to the standard pilot's eye reference point. For a pilot in the left front seat looking out of the right side window, or a flight instructor in the right front seat looking out of the left side window, the field of view would have been 22 degrees downward, limited by the lower edge of the window frame, and 3 degrees upward, limited by the upper edge of the window frame and the wing.
The Lancair included a one-piece canopy. The canopy was continuous; running from the glare shield aft to the airframe roof structure located aft of the pilot and passenger seats. Upward visibility was not limited by the canopy.
The friend of the individuals in the Lancair reported that he was familiar with the visibility from a Lancair when in flight. He stated that due to the low-wing configuration a pilot's visibility downward is restricted left and right of the airplane. He noted that the pilot is able to see downward about 10 degrees over the engine cowling. When looking 30 degrees left or right of the nose, still forward of the wings, the pilot is able to see downward at an angle of approximately 40 degrees.
FAA Advisory Circular 90-48C, Pilot's Role in Collision Avoidance, stated that "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." The advisory circular noted that the time for a pilot to see an object, perceive it as a collision threat, and execute an evasive maneuver is approximately 12.5 seconds.
Studies indicate that in order to insure reasonably accurate visual recognition in nearly ideal conditions, a target must be close enough to present a 0.2-degree arc angle to the observer. In less than ideal conditions, the minimum size for accurate visual recognition may increase two or three times.
In the case of a Cessna 172 with a fuselage length of 26 feet - 11 inches, the airplane fuselage would present a 0.2-degree target size at a distance of 1.27 nm. At a closure speed of 115 knots, a Cessna 172 fuselage would present a 0.2-degree target size approximately 40 seconds prior to a collision.
In the case of a Lancair 235 with a fuselage length of approximately 20 feet, the airplane would present a 0.2-degree target size at a distance of 0.94 nm. At a closure speed of 115 knots, a Lancair 235 would present a 0.2-degree target size approximately 30 seconds prior to a collision.
Regulations concerning inspection of altimeter systems (14 CFR Part 43, Appendix E -- Altimeter System Test and Inspection) specified the procedures and accuracy requirements for altimeters and altitude reporting equipment. Specifically, it stated "the difference between the automatic reporting output and the altitude at the altimeter shall not exceed 125 feet."
The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), Section 7-2-3 -- Altimeter Errors, stated that pilots may operationally check the accuracy of the altimeter by verifying that the instrument indicates field elevation when set to the current altimeter setting. A difference on the order of 75 feet indicates that the altimeter may not be accurate and should be referred for evaluation.
Federal regulations concerning right-of-way rules for aircraft in-flight (14 CFR 91.113) stated: "When weather conditions permit, regardless of whether an operation is conducted under instrument flight rules or visual flight rules, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft." In the case of aircraft converging "at approximately the same altitude (except head-on, or nearly so), the aircraft to the other's right has the right-of-way." In the case of one aircraft overtaking another, the "aircraft that is being overtaken has the right-of-way and each pilot of an overtaking aircraft shall alter course to the right to pass well clear."
The AIM, Section 7-5-2 -- VFR in Congested Areas, recommended that when operating VFR in congested areas, "extra vigilance be maintained." When the air traffic control radar service is available "traffic advisories may be given to VFR pilots upon request."
The AIM, Section 4-1-14 - Radar Traffic Information Service, stated that upon pilot request ATC radar facilities will provide traffic advisories to VFR aircraft. However, "many factors, such as limitations of the radar, volume of traffic, controller workload and communications frequency congestion, could prevent the controller from providing this service. Controllers possess complete discretion for determining whether they are able to provide or continue to provide this service in a specific case. . . . Pilots receiving this service are advised of any target observed on the radar display in such proximity to the position of their aircraft or its intended route of flight that it warrants their attention. This service is not intended to relieve the pilot of the responsibility for continual vigilance to see and avoid other aircraft."
FAA standards for instrument training and instrument flight tests require proficiency in controlling the aircraft solely by reference to the flight instruments. View-limiting devices are used in order to restrict a pilot's field of view to the instrument panel only, preventing use of visual references in controlling the airplane. When a view-limiting device is in use, regulations require a safety pilot to occupy the other pilot seat. Specifically, 14 CFR 91.109 stated that "no person may operate a civil aircraft in simulated instrument flight unless . . . the other control seat is occupied by a safety pilot who possesses at least a private pilot certificate with category and class ratings appropriate to the aircraft being flown."
Both aircraft were released at the conclusion of the on-scene investigation. The FAA and Cessna Aircraft Company were parties to the investigation.