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On February 1, 2009, about 1415 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-18-150, N2424A, registered to Flightline Group, Inc., collided with a vehicle during takeoff from Ayavalla Field, near Tallahassee, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal, local flight from the private airstrip. The airplane was substantially damaged and the commercial-certificated pilot and one passenger in the airplane were not injured, while the two occupants of the vehicle were killed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.
The pilot stated that before he began the takeoff roll, a dirt bike type motorcycle, then a jeep with the two occupants began driving down the runway in the same direction that he was departing. The runway orientation was later determined to be north/south. After becoming airborne he remained close to the runway and passed to the right side of the jeep. He felt a bump and knew he had impacted the jeep. He also noted that the left wing navigation light was hanging down. He performed a 180 degree turn and landed uneventfully to the east.
The pilot further stated that at the time of the collision he was flying at 75 mph, and estimated the jeep was traveling at 35 to 40 mph. There was no briefing before takeoff though they knew he was going to takeoff and he (the pilot) had seen the dirt bike and jeep depart before he applied power to takeoff. The pilot also reported that he had performed this same type of procedure many times in which the dirt bike and jeep would drive down the runway, and he would then depart in the same direction and fly low over them. He stated there were no preimpact failure or malfunction with the airplane or flight controls.
According to law enforcement personnel, following the collision the jeep veered to the left and impacted trees.
The pilot, age 54, holds an airline transport pilot certificate with a airplane multi-engine land rating, and a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land and single engine sea ratings. He also holds a private pilot certificate with a glider rating. He was issued a second class medical certificate on January 15, 2007, with a limitation to wear corrective lenses.
The rear seat occupant of the airplane does not hold any FAA issued pilot certificates.
The airplane was manufactured in 1993 by Piper Aircraft, Inc., as model PA-18-150, and was designated serial number 1809075. The airplane was last inspected in accordance with an annual inspection on October 15, 2008.
A surface observation weather report taken at Tallahassee Regional Airport, at 1353, or approximately 22 minutes before the accident indicates the wind was from 180 degrees at 11 knots, the visibility was 10 statute miles, scattered clouds existed at 4,300 feet, broken clouds existed at 7,000 feet, the temperature and dew point were 16 and 08 degrees Celsius respectively, and the altimeter setting was 30.19 inches of mercury.
The private airstrip named Ayavalla Field has a single grass runway oriented north and south. The runway is 3,800 feet long and 300 feet wide. The pilot reported that the runway was dry at the time of the accident, and there were no restrictions to the visibility.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the runway by representatives of Leon County Sheriff’s Office revealed two parallel oriented tracks associated with the jeep’s tires. The tracks were oriented along a southerly direction, and then begin an arcing left turn off the east side of the runway. The jeep came to rest upright near a pine tree which exhibited damage to the trunk near the base. A semi-circular indentation associated with tree contact was noted to the right side of the jeep’s hood. The jeep exhibited greater damage to the right side. Further examination of the runway revealed the jeep’s windshield came to rest before the parallel marks begin an arcing left turn. The airplane was stopped on the runway facing a southeasterly direction located about the midpoint of the arching turn.
Examination of the airplane by a representative of the airframe manufacturer with FAA oversight revealed damage to the leading edge of the left wing from just outboard of the landing light outboard to the wingtip. Fuselage tube deformity was noted at the wing root to fuselage attach point. Aileron, elevator, and rudder flight control continuity was confirmed from each respective control surface to the fore and aft control sticks.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examinations of the driver and passenger of the vehicle were performed by the District Two Medical Examiner’s Office. The cause of death for the driver was listed as “Blunt traumatic injuries of head and neck”, while the cause of death for the passenger was listed as “Blunt head trauma.”
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the pilot by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The result was positive in the submitted blood specimen for 11-Nor 9 carboxy delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol 8.1 ng/mL, and negative for ethyl alcohol.
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the driver of the vehicle by the University of Florida Diagnostic Reference Laboratories. The results were negative in the submitted blood specimens for volatiles and a comprehensive drug screen, while an unquantified amount of Metoprolol was detected in the submitted urine specimen.