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

After the collision, one pilot received serious injuries and the other received minor injuries. The pilot with minor injuries told investigators that during his preflight inspection, he found the master switch on and the battery was dead. He said he hand-propped the airplane and taxied on the lake to warm up the engine.

The pilot said when he applied power for takeoff, his friend in the other PA-18 was to his left and behind him. He said he wasn't able to use the airplane's radio because the dead battery and the alternator were not operating.

He said his intent was to climb straight out to the south from the lake and then turn east toward their destination. He said as the airplane climbed, he saw an object flash by and heard a loud noise. He said he lost control of the airplane, and it crashed on shore.

The pilot of the second airplane said he listened for his friend on the radio, but heard nothing and believed he was still warming up his engine.

He said he believed that he was the first to take off. He said when he heard a loud bang and thought something had broken, causing a loss of control. The second pilot said he didn't realize there had been a collision until he got out and saw the wreckage on the ground.

A witness told the NTSB's investigator that he heard two airplanes power up, and he looked outside to watch since it was unusual for two airplanes to take off at the same time. He said the airplanes were on the same side of the lake, but in different areas.

He said one plane, later identified as carrying the pilot who was seriously injured, appeared to be in a slight left bank. He said about 50-70 feet above the water, it appeared to come up underneath the right wing of the other plane.

The seriously injured pilot had 5,929 total flight hours. The other pilot had 1,250 total flight hours.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of both pilots to see and avoid each other during the initial climb. Contributing to the accident was the inability of one pilot to use his airplane's radio for advisories.

The private pilots of an experimental amateur-built RV-8 and an experimental Nanchang China CJ-6A were friends and neighbors. Their airplanes collided in mid-air shortly after takeoff from Pryor Field (DCU), Decatur, Ala.


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