Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today is National Aviation Day.

Set aside By President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 to honor and celebrate the development of Aviation. Appropriately it is observed on Orville Wright's birthday.

Normally I take-up the plane on special aviation days like this, just to ride around and soak-up the feeling of wonderment of soaring freely. But today my plane is in New Orleans with my partner. So I am earthbound. No matter I see some rather nasty looking thunderstorms building and that is one thing that I will NOT challenge.

Yesterday I posted about my interest in learning from accidents. I truly believe by learning what went wrong, and why, we can become safer. I have read litterlly thousands of accident reports, and they have revealed some surprising facts. Also there have been quiet a few strange events recorded, but last Saturday an accident occured that strange and unlikely as it seems, the thought gives me nightmares.


This past Saturday at a small airshow in Colorado there was a midair collision between two aircraft, causing one to crash out of control while the other, heavily damaged managed to land safely. While horrorifing this seems pretty straight forward upon 1st glance. Fortunately no one was killed.
It seems that at the airshow a group of model enthusists were flying their VERY large r/c ( radio controlled ) airplane. They were over the runway as a manned stunt plane approached the area. At this point the show was under the direction of a man on the ground, the "Air Boss" who was talking on a handheld radio and supposedly clearing the airspace.
Well there seems to have been some type of breakdown in communication because the Stunt plane, a single seat Pitts biplane continued to fly down the runway while making a trail of smoke which is normal for airshows. It continues on making a high speed pass until it collides with the r/c plane.Following impact, the biplane continues flying, apparently under control , while the model tumbled to pieces falling off to the side of the runway. There were no injuries to anyone on the ground but the video does show the public were much too close to an active runway.

Without my trying to fix blame as to who was in the wrong, I need to note that the current FAA regulations dictate manned aircraft always have the right of way.
After regaining control of his aircraft the manned stunt plane returned to the runway making a safe landing. The pilot was shaken, but not injured. His plane however shows significant damage. The bottom wing of the Pitts aircraft has a huge dent in it making the plane unflyable until repaired.

The very large $8000 r/c model faired much worse. Here is the largest remaining hunk of it's wreckage. Things could have been much much worse. The collision could have brought down BOTH machines, debris from either or both aircraft could have injured or killed many in the crowd. the potential for harm was enormous.

The FAA accident team is investigating the event. It will be interesting to see how this investigation plays out. One lesson already seems obvious. Better communication could have helped.

The images from the airshow ( above ) are off a video shot by someone in the crowd.

  • The 1st one is the r/c plane in an extreme nose up attitude seconds before the collision.

  • Next the photo shows the Biplane just before impact

  • In the 3rd shot the actual impact ( in the far right side of frame)

  • And finally a photo showing the models damage from the collision.

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