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Tue, Mar 15, 2011

NTSB Releases Factual Report On Biplane Collision With Large RC Aircraft

Radio Controlled Plane Was Performing In A Model Air Show.

In what was perhaps the most unusual mid-air collision last year, a Shpakow SA 750 bipe struck a large-scale AJ Slick RC model, slightly damaging the larger aircraft but largely destroying the model. The good news is that the biplane landed safely, but it was not undamaged.

NTSB Identification: CEN10LA487A
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, August 14, 2010 in Brighton, CO
Aircraft: SHPAKOW THOMAS SA 750, registration: N28KT
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

On August 14, 2010, approximately 1100 mountain daylight time, N28KT, a Shpakow SA 750 bi-plane, was substantially damaged when it collided with a radio controlled AJ Slick airplane, while performing a go-around at the Van-Aire Estates Airport (CO12), Brighton, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot and his passenger were not injured. The flight departed Centennial Airport (KAPA), Denver, Colorado, approximately 1030, and was destined for Brighton, Colorado.

AJ  Slick Model Hover


According to a telephone conversation and subsequent written statement submitted by the pilot of the bi-plane, he was flying to CO12 to participate in a fly-in and BBQ event. Prior to his flight, he had contacted the event organizer, coordinated his arrival, and received a briefing that there would be radio controlled airplane models flying between 1000 and 1400. While on approach to runway 12, he observed a Cessna airplane on the runway and performed a go-around. During his second approach to runway 12, he felt that his approach speed was fast, and the airplane was not aligned properly so he added power, turned his smoke on to increase visibility to the radio controlled airplane operators, and announced that he was performing a go-around.

While performing the go-around, the radio controlled airplane impacted the lower left wing of the bi-plane. The pilot of the bi-plane reported that he lost altitude but was able to recover and land the bi-plane without further incident. He stated that he did not see the radio controlled airplane until just prior to the impact.

The FAA inspector who examined the bi-plane reported that lower left wing was crushed aft to the main spar. A six to eight inch tear was noted in the upper left wing fabric, and damage was noted on the leading edge of the left aileron.

According to a telephone conversation and subsequent written statement submitted by the pilot of the radio controlled airplane, he had been cleared by the “air boss” to exhibit his airplane in flight. He understood that the event coordinator (air boss) was providing see and avoid assistance and communicating with airplanes flying in and out of the airport. The pilot of the radio controlled airplane reported that during his routine, the bi-plane came from out of nowhere and “slammed” into his radio controlled airplane. He reported that his airplane was destroyed.

Shpakow Acroduster SA 750

During the event, a video was made of the radio controlled airplane performance. The video captured the events prior to the collision, as well as the collision between the radio controlled airplane and the bi-plane. The beginning of the video showed the radio controlled airplane being operated directly over the runway environment with the operator on the runway, very close to the airplane. The airplane was in a nose high, tail low attitude, “hanging” on the propeller. Approximately 35 seconds into the video, a second individual carrying a hand-held radio is seen walking towards the radio controlled airplane operator. Due to the engine noise, their conversation could not be heard. At this time, the radio controlled airplane recovered from the maneuver and climbed in altitude. The next frame showed the accident bi-plane flying from the left side of the screen to the right side of the screen. At 38 seconds into the video, the radio controlled airplane collided with the bi-plane.

In an interview with the event coordinator, he clarified that the title of airboss was not a formal position. He did provide a safety briefing with the radio controlled airplane operators the morning of the event. In this briefing he emphasized that only one aircraft was to fly at a time, they were to fly on the east side of the runway, not over the runway, and no one was to fly without first speaking to him. He carried a radio with him to monitor traffic.

The event coordinator stated that prior to the accident, the radio controlled airplane operator departed after waiting for a Cessna to land. Shortly thereafter the bi-plane reported that he was intending to land and the event coordinator asked him to report 3 miles out. The radio controlled airplane flew away from the airport towards the east. When the bi-plane reported that he was on final, the event coordinator became aware that the radio controlled airplane was over the runway performing stunts and hovers. When the bi-plane announced his go-around, the event coordinator realized that the radio controlled airplane was in the bi-planes flight path and told the radio controlled airplane operator to “dump it.” The radio controlled airplane continued to hover for a few seconds and then initiated an escape maneuver which placed the radio controlled airplane in the bi-plane’s flight path. The event coordinated maintained that he was not acting in the capacity of a spotter.

The club president reported that this was not an Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) sanctioned event; however, AMA rules applied. He had understood that the individual creating the video was also the spotter; however, he was not sure if a spotter had been formally or officially assigned.

Model After Collision

The AMA Safety Code stated that model aircraft pilots should yield right of way to all man carrying aircraft, see and avoid all aircraft, and utilize a spotter when appropriate. In a follow-up conversation with a representative with the AMA, it is left up to the operator to use a spotter, and there is not currently any guidance for spotter briefings, or spotter responsibilities. The “See and Avoid Guidance” on the AMA websites stated that the spotter should understand their duties and expectations, and should be used when operation is expected within the proximity of manned aircraft. The AMA does not advise concurrent operations.

The Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards, stated that operators should give right of way to, and avoid flying in the proximity of, full-scale aircraft. The AC also encourages operators to use observers to help.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov


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