TSB midair collision investigation concludes
Sept. 11, 2012, Gatineau, Que. - The TSB today released its investigation report (A11P0027) into the 9 February 2011 midair collision between two Cessna 150 aircraft over Dewdney, British Columbia.
The two accident aircraft were part of a four aircraft formation flight. One was the lead aircraft and the other was behind and to its right. During a right turn while in formation, the aircraft on the right lost sight of the leader. While trying to regain sight of the leader, the aircraft climbed, turned left, and struck the lead aircraft. The two aircraft briefly joined together and descended out of control until about 400 feet above ground level where they separated. The lead aircraft then broke up and continued descending out of control to the ground. Both of its occupants suffered fatal injuries. The other aircraft's pilot regained control and landed in a nearby field without engine power, and was uninjured.
"Formation flying is a challenging activity requiring high levels of skill and discipline," said Bill Yearwood, Manager, Air Investigation Operations, Pacific Region. "Without appropriate training and thorough preflight briefings, there is an increased risk of in-flight collisions, and these collisions often cause fatal accidents."
Training is required for formation flying during events such as air shows. However, for casual formation flight outside of air shows, the only regulatory requirement is a pre-arrangement between pilots intending to fly in formation. The group had a pre-flight briefing to discuss join-up procedures after takeoff and breakout procedures. However, this briefing did not discuss the procedures for loss of sight of an aircraft, nor did it review the practices for returning to the formation. Further, the investigation found that flying in formation in high-wing aircraft such as the Cessna 150 poses an elevated risk of loss of visual contact, due to the limited cockpit vision angles.
Since the accident, Transport Canada issued a safety bulletin regarding the hazards associated with formation flying. It highlights the importance of pre-flight planning and flying skills in reducing the associated risks.