02 June 2015

About That Talkeetna Two-Plane Collision ...

The air pilot involved in Sunday's mid-air crash at Talkeetna Airport told supervisors he didn't know he'd "merged" with another plane until he landed and opened his door.

Go to the article and read the whole story. The details are still sketchy, but it seems - in this VERY early stage of investigation - that the smaller plane (with student pilot) either took off, or was landing, directly underneath the air taxi as the latter was landing, too. The larger craft could have literally landed on top of the other plane without ever knowing it was there.

Could have. "Appears". I'm awaiting the NTSB results on this one, but have to admit the taxi pilot's version seems suspect. On the other hand, I am NOT an expert, and will gladly defer to anyone with the knowledge of how such things work.

Your thoughts, Old NFO? Brigid? Bueller?

10 comments:

GrizAlaska said...

It looks like Cessna's mating season, is happening in Alaska.

All joking aside.
Thank God, there is no life threatening injuries.

Rev. Paul said...

Agreed!

Murphy's Law said...

And this is why we have traffic patterns and radios and announcements of location and intentions on a common frequency, people.

Rev. Paul said...

Absolutely, ML. The NTSB guy even mentioned that the planes were supposed to be on the same frequency. It remains to be seen if that's the case.

Old NFO said...

Still too early to tell, but I'm guessing SA and visual scan were lacking seriously on the part of the student (Overloaded) and lacking on the air taxi due to complacency...

Rev. Paul said...

Old NFO - that sounds about right. Thanks.

airphoria said...

A Cessna 180/185, landed in a 3-point attitude, has marginal forward visibility. I'm 6'1", and in the 3-point attitude (all 3 wheels touching), I can see the far half of a 4000' runway and the edges, but the near/center part of the runway is obscured by the engine cowling (a pilot of lesser stature will not see this well). So, if he was dragging the airplane in slow for a short-as-possible 3-point landing, his forward visibility would not be the best. (this is no excuse, one ought to be looking all around the nose and maneuvering mildly to visually clear the runway)

The fact that the 172 was pretty much squashed by the 185, yet both airplanes are relatively intact, suggests that both airplanes collided at approximately the same speed, and either on the runway or just above it. My guess is that the student was waiting for takeoff, thought it was clear, and took the runway just as the 185 pilot was "dragging it in" nose high and slow, and didn't see him pull onto the runway.

Talkeetna happens to have a (very busy) Flight Service Station operator on the field, monitoring the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency of 123.6 MHz. That operator briefs pilots, manages lots of VFR flight plans, and provides a traffic advisory service when able (they are not responsible for aircraft separation, only advisories). It's unclear if they were on duty at the time; if they were, they could have much more information, and maybe tape of the radio chatter.

It will be interesting to read the NTSB preliminary report on this when it is published. That usually takes a few weeks, I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

Thankful there were no fatalities here, and that the 172 pilot should be OK. I can't imagine what must have gone through his mind with the 185s propeller chewing through the back window and pinning his airplane down.

See and avoid. The operative part is "see"...

Rev. Paul said...

airphoria, that's a very good analysis, and I appreciate your input. The only thing I'd add is that it was described by the witnesses as a mid-air collision, so they were both landing.

Either way, the report will be interesting, to say the least.

airphoria said...

The 172 could have just left the ground from takeoff roll, climbing as the 185 descended on top of it. The speeds for both airplanes would be a match in this state, about 65-70 knots. The 185 broke the left main gear, suggesting that it dropped on from maybe 25 feet or so. Much higher, and I would have expected parts to be spread around, and more injuries.

Of course, it's speculation. I will keep an eye out for the NTSB preliminary (these basically just state facts feeding the investigation, with no statement of probable cause).

You're going to get me blogging again if this keeps up...

airphoria said...

A preliminary report has been published, which does have a bit of clarity (not much, and is likely to be updated later). Links are prohibited here, but you can do this:

Open ntsb.gov
Click "Aviation Accident Database" (under the news box)
In the "Accident Number" field, under NTSB Status, enter this accident ID: ANC15LA033A
It should show a page with one entry, updated 6/4. Click it and read.

It does state directly that both aircraft were landing; the student had left Palmer, enroute Talkeetna. The debris field started 62 feet prior to the runway threshold, and ran for 460 feet (e.g. 400 feet down the runway).

The FSS recordings on frequency do state that both aircraft could be heard transmitting position reports. I had wondered about that.

So, both airplanes were on a final approach leg (meaning, aligned with the runway), and both were talking. My takeoff/landing theory was wrong. It doesn't say who said what and when on the radio, but I'm now struggling to understand why the 185 driver didn't see the traffic.

I expect this to be updated later with more information. Without knowing the content and timing of the radio chatter, it's hard to make a case that the student pilot did anything wrong, however.