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

The pilot of the RV-8 was killed and the pilot of the CJ-6A had minor injuries. The weather was VFR. They were flying to Big River Airpark (5AL5), Muscle Shoals, Ala. The RV-8 had departed first, and the CJ-6A followed about five minutes later. RV-8 aircraft are sold as kits for homebuilders, and the CJ-6A was designed and built in China as a military trainer.

Witnesses reported that there had been an open house at DCU that the pilots had attended, and they were flying back to their home airport. The RV-8 took off first, performed aerobatics over the runway and in the traffic pattern, then climbed and orbited the airport.

After the CJ-6A departed, it remained in the traffic pattern for a low pass over the runway. During the low pass, the RV-8 joined in formation with the CJ-6A. The RV-8 began to overtake the CJ-6A, and the pilot of the RV-8 announced his relative position over the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF).

The pilot of the CJ-6A began a climbing right turn and the RV-8 overtook it from left to right. The left wing of the RV-8 partially separated when it was hit by the right wing of the CJ-6A. The RV-8 went out of control and crashed on a grass area at a local community college. The CJ-6A landed at DCU.

The CJ-6A pilot told investigators he and the other pilot discussed flying home together, but the other pilot decided to fly home separately, and departed first. As the pilot of the CJ-6A prepared to depart, a photographer asked him to make some low passes over the runway for pictures.

The CJ-6A took off and remained in the traffic pattern at about 1,000 feet. The CJ-6A pilot radioed the RV-8 pilot who said he saw the CJ-6A. As the CJ-6A turned from base leg to final leg, the pilot of the RV-8 radioed that he was at the CJ-6A's 6 o'clock position, then the 4 o'clock position.

The CJ-6A then began a pass over the runway, descending to approximately 200 feet above ground level (AGL). The collision took place after the pass, as the CJ-6A began to climb.

A pilot witness was listening to the CTAF frequency. She reported hearing position reports from the RV-8 and a partial transmission, "Form fly, okay?'' which may have been the RV-8 pilot asking to fly in formation with the CJ-6A pilot.

The pilot of the RV-8 reported 769 hours on his last application for a third- class medical. The CJ-6A pilot reported 3,600 hours on his last application for a second-class medical.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the RV-8 pilot's failure to maintain adequate clearance from the CJ-6A while they were maneuvering.

Peter Katz is editor and publisher of NTSB Reporter, an independent monthly update on aircraft accident investigations and other news concerning the National Transportation Safety Board. To subscribe, write to: NTSB Reporter, Subscription Dept., P.O. Box 831, White Plains, N.Y. 10602-0831.


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