Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

When Close Friends Get Too Close

Don’t assume that just because you’re friends, you can anticipate what the other pilot will do

One of the great things about aviation is that people are drawn together by this unique avocation as if they were members of a fraternity or sorority.

Acquaintances morph into lasting friendships where you really get to know each other well, including flying habits. You often find yourselves on joint adventures, taking to the air, either in the same or separate aircraft.

Sometimes it's for pleasure and, at other times, it's to be helpful. On numerous occasions, I've met up with a friend based elsewhere after a bit of preflight telephoning and in-air communicating, direct or by listening for his tail number, voice and location on ATC frequencies.

Return flights from airports with restaurants we had patronized or those convenient to beaches might sometimes involve some loose formation flying with us maintaining radio contact for conversation and to help ensure separation. Unfortunately, not all "buddy flights" go smoothly, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sometimes has to become involved.

A Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee and a Piper PA-24-250 Comanche collided in mid-air and crashed while flying over New Hampton, N.Y. The pilots of each plane, who were the only occupants, were killed.

The collision took place in VFR conditions. Both airplanes had taken off from Orange County Airport (MGJ), Montgomery, N.Y., and were headed for Sussex Airport (FWN), Sussex, N.J. The Cherokee was operating as a ferry flight and the PA-24 was operating as a personal flight.

The Cherokee had been involved in an incident at MGJ about seven months previously. According to NTSB documents, after finishing fueling at the self-service pump, the airplane's owner began taxiing out for takeoff when the propeller struck a taxiway light. There was a sudden engine stoppage, and the propeller was gouged.


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