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On November 23, 2008, at 0830 eastern standard time, a Beech V35B, N4396W, and a Piper PA-28-161, N121DL, collided in midair near the Winter Haven’s Gilbert Airport (GIF), Winter Haven, FL. The pilots and passengers of both airplanes were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for either flight. Both airplanes were operated by private individuals, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as personal flights. Both airplanes sustained substantial damage.
The pilot of the Beech airplane stated that he departed from the Leeward Air Ranch Airport (FD04), Ocala, Florida, and was en route to GIF. When the airplane was 7 miles north of GIF, at 2000 feet, the pilot reduced the airspeed to 160 mph to extend the landing gear and flaps. At that time, he was checking the automated surface observing systems (ASOS) frequency to prepare for the airport entry. Suddenly, another airplane appeared at the same altitude. The pilot of the Beech executed an evasive maneuver, turning quickly to the left: however, his airplane’s right wing tip made contact with the other airplane. After the impact, he was able to control the airplane and landed on runway 22 at GIF.
The pilot of the Piper airplane stated he taxied to runway 4 and announced his departure toward the north over the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) for GIF. Once at 500 feet above the ground (agl), he made another announcement over the CTAF advising the airplane was leaving the traffic pattern toward the north. The pilot maneuvered the airplane from a heading of 040 to 360 degrees, climbing at a rate of 400 feet-per-minute. The pilot continued scanning for traffic at which time, he recognized a V-tail of a Bonanza at his "one o’clock position," closing in quickly at an altitude of approximately 1,300 feet agl. He immediately placed his airplane in a left bank, but both airplanes struck each other. He then broadcast over the GIF CTAF, declaring an emergency. He was able to successfully return to GIF and land on runway 4.
The Beech pilot, age 65, held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, single-engine sea, and instrument airplane. His most recent third-class medical certificate was issued on August 6, 2008. At the time of the accident, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 7,869 hours, including 1,856 hours as pilot in command in the accident airplane make and model.
The Piper pilot, age 28, held a private pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued on March 17, 2008. At the time of the accident, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 50 hours, including 17 hours as pilot in command in the accident airplane make and model.
At 0853, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) at GIF was reporting: wind 010 at 6 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature, 12 degrees C; dew point, 9 degrees C; altimeter, 30.43 in Hg.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the Beech airplane revealed that the outer two feet of the right wing had been sheared off. The remaining right and center wing sections had buckled.
Examination of the Piper airplane revealed that the right rear fuselage was punctured in three places aft of the baggage door. The right leading edge of the stabilator sustained impact damage. There was scraping along the bottom of the cowl and fuselage, and a small piece of the Beech airplane’s wing tip was found on the bottom of the fuselage.
Chapter 1, "Collision Avoidance," of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3A) provided the following guidance to pilots:
"All pilots must be alert to the potential for midair collision and near midair collisions. The general operating and flight rules in Title 14 CFR Part 91 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). Pilots should also keep in mind their responsibility for continuously maintaining a vigilant lookout regardless of the type of aircraft being flown and the purpose of the flight."
Federal Regulations concerning right-of-way rules for aircraft in-flight (14 CFR 91.113) states:
“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 approaching head on or nearly so, the “pilot of each aircraft shall alter course to the right.”