NTSB Identification: LAX98FA086B

On February 11, 1998, at 1525 hours Pacific standard time, a Beech J35, N8343D, collided with a California Army National Guard Boeing CH-47D, S/N 91-0234, the flight lead ship of a two helicopter formation flight near Morgan Hill, California. The lead and trail aircraft were using the call signs Schooner 14 and Schooner 44, respectively. The Beech was destroyed and the certificated commercial pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. Schooner 14 sustained substantial damage; however, neither the pilot, copilot, nor the two flight engineers were injured. The Beech was being operated under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 as a personal flight by its owner/pilot. Schooner 14 was being operated under 14 CFR Part 91 and AR 95-1 of United States Army Regulations as a military training flight by the California Army National Guard. The Beech originated at 1510 from the Reid-Hillview of Santa Clara County Airport in San Jose, California. The Army flight originated from the Monterey Peninsula Airport, Monterey, California, at 1505. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time. Schooner 14 had a VFR flight plan on file, while the Beech had none.

The pilots of Schooner 14 and 44 reported that they both were on a heading of 004 degrees, cruising at 2,500 feet msl, with an indicated airspeed of 115 knots, when the westbound Beech J35 collided with the lead ship. The pilot of Schooner 44 reported that he was 7 to 8 rotor disks to the rear of the Schooner 14 at the 5:30 position.

The crew in Schooner 14 stated that they did not see the Beech at any time prior to the collision. At least two of the crewmembers in Schooner 44 reported first seeing the Beech approach their formation from the right about 3 to 5 seconds before the collision occurred. They stated that neither aircraft made any perceptible changes in heading or altitude before the collision.

A flight engineer and the copilot of Schooner 14 were both seated on the right side of the aircraft. The pilot-in-command's preflight briefing instructed all crewmembers to be alert for possible conflicting traffic and to promptly advise him of their observations. This has been a standard portion of the preflight briefing and the crewmembers had received the same instructions on previous flights.

After colliding with the right rear of Schooner 14's fuselage, the right wing of the Beech separated and the aircraft made an uncontrolled descent. The pilot of Schooner 14 subsequently made a precautionary, run-on landing and then performed an emergency shutdown.

Recorded radar data of the accident area was retained and reviewed. The Continuous Disk Recording (CDR) data was obtained from the Mountain View Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR) site. The period covered was from 23:20:00 to 23:27:55 UTC. The data showed the Beech on a northwest heading prior to the accident and Schooner 14 on a north-northeasterly course. The rate of target return from the radar site was once every 4.5 seconds.

The radar returns indicated that Schooner 14 had a ground speed of 130 knots at the time of the accident. No ground speed was calculated for the Beech due to the erratic radar returns from the aircraft.


The pilot of the Beech was reported on his pilot's certificate to be 5 feet 2 inches in height.

The pilot's last logged flight was a round trip flight from Reid-Hillview to San Bernardino, California, on December 22, 1997, for a total duration of 4.7 hours. His logbook showed a total of 6,165 hours at that time.

The last recorded biennial flight review (BFR) in the pilot's logbook was accomplished on June 7, 1990, in a Cessna 172. No evidence of a more recent BFR was discovered.

Both military pilots in Schooner 14 met Army currency requirements and both had passed a standardization check ride in the same make and model aircraft within the preceding 12 months as required by Army regulations. Both pilots also had taken Army class II flight physicals within the preceding 12 months and had been found to be fit for flying duty by a designated Army flight surgeon. The pilot's medical examination was dated July 29, 1997. The copilot's was dated May 1, 1997. Neither crewmember was flying with a waiver for a medical disqualification. Neither crewmember was required to wear or possess corrective lenses for near or far vision.


The Beech was equipped with seatbelts and shoulder harness. Friends of the pilot reported that he used a pillow, placed on the seat bottom, to raise his seated position in the aircraft. The left front seat did not have a vertical adjustment feature.

Schooner 14 was equipped with top and bottom rotating beacons as well as landing lights. These lights were reported by the crewmembers to have been illuminated at the time of the accident.


Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site with an estimated 20-mile visibility and scattered clouds at 3,000 feet.

According to astronomical sun and moon tables, at the time and date of the accident, the sun was on a magnetic bearing of 235.1 degrees and at an altitude of 43.1 degrees.


According to statements from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controllers, the pilot of Schooner 14 was flight following with Licke sector of Bay Terminal Approach Control (TRACON) at the time, but had not received any VFR traffic advisories before the collision occurred. The pilot of the Beech was not currently communicating with any FAA air traffic control (ATC) facility.

The transponder in the Beech was squawking the VFR code 1200, while Schooner 14 was squawking an assigned code of 4263 with Mode C indicating 2,800 feet msl. The Mode C data received from the Beech was reported as erratic and unreliable. The FAA facility automation specialist reported that because there was no valid Mode C data, there was no alert available from the intruder program.

Schooner 14 was handed off to Bay TRACON by Monterey Approach at 1525 for continued VFR advisories. Schooner contacted TRACON and reported level at 2,500 feet. About 2 minutes later Schooner 44 transmitted a Mayday distress call. When Bay TRACON responded to the call, Schooner 44 reported a midair collision between a "Bonanza" and "our . . . Chinook."

The controller described the radar coverage at 2,500 feet as "intermittent, in and out of radar contact." He said that he did not see either the primary or secondary target. When investigators asked why he did not notice the conflict, the controller replied, "Because I was busy."

The controller's workload at the time of the accident was described by his supervisor as moderate. He was working Hooks sector in addition to Licke. He recalled working six different aircraft at time he was handed Schooner 14. Most of that traffic was in the northern portion of his sector, while Schooner 14 and another VFR aircraft were in the southern area. He said his radar presentation was normal and that he felt comfortable with the situation.


The Beech accident site was located at 37 degrees 7 minutes north latitude and 121 degrees 35 minutes west longitude. The site was 19 nautical miles from the Reid-Hillview airport on a 120-degree bearing.

Schooner 14 made a precautionary landing about 2 statute miles southeast of the Beech accident site.

A single propeller blade from the Beech, the upper engine cowling, right wing tip, and outboard 7-foot section of the right wing with the aileron attached were located in proximity to each other, approximately 0.5 statute miles southeast of the main wreckage site. The engine cowling was located at 37 degrees 7.589 minutes north latitude and 121 degrees 34.899 minutes west longitude. The wing section, which was located at 37 degrees 7.054 minutes north latitude and 121 degrees 34.930 minutes west longitude, exhibited leading edge crushing along its entire span. The propeller blade, located at 37 degrees 7.688 north latitude and 121 degrees 35.001 degrees west longitude, exhibited leading edge gouging and was twisted toward low pitch.

The Beech airframe exhibited evidence of fragmentation with debris scattered along sloping terrain on a westerly orientation. The left wing exhibited near-uniform leading edge crushing. Debris from the forward fuselage and powerplant were found at 37 degrees 7.935 minutes north latitude and 121 degrees 35.322 minutes west longitude, in the largest and most easterly ground scar. The lateral orientation of the scar was from 110 degrees to 290 degrees. Additional debris was found along a 290-degree bearing west of this ground scar.

The outboard 17 inches of the remaining propeller blade was also separated from the hub, but was found in relative proximity of the initial scar. The blade section exhibited forward bending with both leading and trailing edge gouges.

The control panel, avionics, and controls were fragmented and disintegrated. No avionics settings were obtained. A Century II roll axis autopilot was installed. The propeller, throttle, and mixture controls were in the full forward positions. The fuel selector was found in the "RH TANK" position. The fuel strainer was located and was found to have been installed in a manner consistent with the manufacturer's written directives. It was clean, with no evidence of sediment or corrosion.

The right wing and left wing flap actuators extensions were found at 2.0 and 1.75 inches, respectively. According to the manufacturer, this correlates to a flap extension of 2 degrees and 0 degrees (fully retracted). The elevator trim actuator was extended 1.0 inch. According to the manufacturer, this correlates to 6 degrees tab down or nose up. The landing gear actuator was in the retracted position.

The Beech's powerplant exhibited impact damage. Both magnetos, the manifold valve, the propeller governor, rocker covers No's. 2, 4, 5 and 6, the starter, the oil pump, the throttle body, and the alternator were all separated from their installed locations on the powerplant. Cylinder heads No's. 2 through 6 exhibited multiple fractures with portions missing that were not later recovered.

The oil cooler was found wrapped over the top of the No. 5 cylinder. All cylinders had steel bores that were smooth without evidence of scoring or discoloration.

The rocker box areas did not exhibit formations of carbon or sludge. There was evidence of lubrication present on metal components when the engine interior was viewed through the oil sump opening.

The crankshaft was present with all four counterweights in place and freely moving on their pins. Although the crankshaft gear was in place, the crankshaft could not be hand rotated.

The camshaft and lifters were in place. There was no pitting or scoring on the cam lobes. The cam gear was in place. The propeller governor drive gear was bent aft.

The connecting rods remained attached to the crankshaft. There was no evidence of bending or discoloration of the crankshaft journals.

The oil pump was in place with no evidence of damage. The vacuum pump was separated from the installed location and was found wedged between the No. 3 and 5 cylinders.

The damage to the magnetos precluded a check of engine timing. All of the top spark plugs were broken.

The intake was attached; however, the intake elbows, balance tube, and throttle body were separated and were not recovered. The exhaust system was missing and was not recovered.

The fuel pump was in place and did not exhibit evidence of damage or malfunction.

The propeller hub was attached to the crankshaft flange.

The wet type vacuum pump remained attached to its mounting pad.

The right aft side of the Boeing exhibited indentations that were dimensionally consistent with the Beech's main wing. The indentation extended along waterline (WL) 10 aft of fuselage station (FS) 518. Fragments of the Beech's right wing tip light were found inside the aft cargo area of the Boeing. The Boeing's skin had been punctured just aft of FS 518.

The right aft exterior skin of the Boeing, above the ramp door frame, exhibited a cut oriented 10 to 15 degrees clockwise from the 12 o'clock position of the longitudinal centerline. The cut extended forward to FS 610 and was approximately 2 feet from the longitudinal centerline. There was evidence of contact with two hydraulic lines at FS 594, and WL 36. The extrapolated center of rotation for the scar was approximately FS 626, and WL 10, about 75 degrees clockwise from the 12 o'clock of the centerline.


An autopsy was conducted on February 12, 1998, by the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office with specimens retained for toxicological examination. The toxicological test results were negative for all screened drug substances. The presence of ethanol discovered during the toxicological examination was attributed to postmortem ethanol production.


The wreckage of the Beech was released to a representative of the registered owner on February 24, 1998. Schooner 14 was not taken into custody as evidence by the Safety Board, instead it was inspected on February 12, 1998, at the accident site and then again on February 13, 1998, at the California Army National Guard hanger in Stockton, California.