Widow of 2002 Crash Victim Sues Feds, City
ANN has extensively
reported on various safety concerns at the annual Sun 'n Fun Fly-In
in Lakeland (FL). While event organizers seem to believe it's all
in our heads, others realize the validity of the concerns we raised
regarding the busy event's aircraft operations. Just ask one
unfortunate woman, who lost her husband two years ago.
The widow of a pilot killed at Lakeland's annual aeronautical
event is now suing the federal government, the fly-in organizers
and the city of Lakeland over his death in 2002. Jerry Morrison
died when his Van's RV-6A collided with another aircraft during
landing. The other pilot -- flying a 1949 PA-16 Piper Clipper --
was seriously injured. Deborah Morrison says negligence led to the
crash. The NTSB investigation indicated both pilots contributed to
the accident by failing to adhere to air traffic control
directions. It also says the surviving pilot failed to "maintain a
visual lookout and to yield right-of-way" to Morrison's plane.
Experienced tower personnel who have worked the Sun 'n Fun event
contacted ANN over a year ago, in disagreement with this
conclusion, citing a number of external issues that may have led to
the tragic collision.
This unfortunate loss only resurfaces the concern many have
expressed over flight operations within this extremely busy airport
environment. ANN's previous in-depth investigations (links shown
below) have revealed that while reminiscent of the annual EAA
AirVenture event in Oshkosh (WI), the controllers at Sun 'n Fun
don't seem to share the apparently safer operational environment
their colleagues up North benefit from. Other areas of concern
involve the active taxiways, where event attendees are often seen
walking around moving propellers. While the safety-related
discussion continues, the Sun 'n Fun organizers will now have to
deal with the latest legal battle to confront them in recent years
-- one of many they are currently facing and not the last they'll
see, for sure.
Here is an excerpt from the NTSB's final report on the fatal
NTSB Identification: ATL02FA074B.
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 05, 2002 in Lakeland, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 8/26/03
Aircraft: Betts RV6A, registration: N3333S
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.
The RV6A and PA-16 pilots were in
the traffic pattern for landing to runway 27 right. The controller
called the base leg for the RV6A pilot and the pilot was slow to
respond to the controller's instructions. The controller called the
base leg for the PA-16 pilot. The controller subsequently observed
the PA-16 pilot overtaking the RV6A pilot on final and instructed
the RV6A pilot to side step to runway 27 left. The RV6A pilot did
not respond to the controller's instructions. The controller
informed the PA-16 pilot to keep it up higher, but the PA-16 pilot
did not respond to the controller's instructions. The controller
observed the nose of the RV6A pitch up violently and both airplanes
collided with the ground. Examination of both airplanes revealed
the PA-16 left main landing gear collided with the upper surface of
the RV6A empennage behind the cabin area and the PA-16 propeller
collided with the RV6A cockpit area.
The NTSB determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as
The failure of the PA-16 pilot to maintain a visual lookout and
to yield the right-of-way to a lower aircraft while on final
approach resulting in a midair collision. Contributing to the
accident was the failure of both pilot's to adhere to an ATC
clearance while landing, and the subsequent in-flight collision of
both airplanes with terrain.
ANN has learned of a number of other issues plaguing this event
and will be presenting those details shortly.