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Thu, Mar 04, 2004

More Troubles For Sun 'n Fun

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 accident.

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 follows:

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.

ANN's Extensive 2003 6-Part Series on Sun 'n Fun Hazards & Problems: 
"Sun 'n Fun Insiders' Warning: 'Deadly' Conditions At 'Messed-Up' Fly-In"

 

FMI: www.ntsb.gov


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