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Controller received ‘collision alert alarm’ before crash over Warrenton, Va.

August 23, 2012

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released an update this week on their investigation into a midair collision that occurred on May 28 near Warrenton, Va. The TSB was delegated the authority to investigate the accident by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after it was discovered employees from the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were involved in the accident.

On May 28, near Warrenton, Va., a Beechcraft V35B Bonanza was in a shallow climb headed southbound when it collided with a Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, which was in level flight headed in a southeasterly direction. As a result of the collision, the Bonanza broke up in flight and the pilot and flight instructor onboard were fatally injured in the crash. The Cherokee pilot, who was the sole occupant, was able to conduct a forced landing in a pasture approximately six nautical miles south of the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport. The pilot was taken to hospital and later released.

View slideshow: Midair collision between Beechcraft V35B Bonanza and Piper PA–28–140 Cherokee near Warrenton, Va

“This investigation has now entered phase 2,” the TSB said in an update released on Wednesday. “The team has now begun the work of analyzing the considerable amount of data in order to determine what happened, why it happened and, what needs to be done to ensure this does not happen again.”

Work completed to date

The accident site was extensively photographed and documented, and all major aircraft components were located. The team reviewed eyewitness statements taken by local law enforcement officials, and had several conversations with the surviving pilot. Air traffic controllers were also interviewed. Relevant records were examined. FAA air traffic radar data along with flight path information recorded on a GPS in the Cherokee were retrieved. This information provides valuable data that will assist investigators in understanding what happened during the moments leading up to the collision.

What they know

Both aircraft were certified, equipped and maintained in accordance with existing regulations and approved procedures. “Nothing was found to indicate that there were any airframe failures or system malfunctions before or during the flight,” the TSB said.

Both aircraft were flying under visual flight rules (VFR). VFR flight requires a pilot to be able to see outside the cockpit, to control the aircraft’s attitude, navigate, and avoid obstacles and other aircraft. The weather for the Warrenton area was consistent with good visual meteorological conditions with visibilities well in excess of the minimums required for VFR.

After departing Culpeper Airport, in Culpeper, Va., and leveling at 2,000 feet, the pilot of the Cherokee contacted Potomac terminal radar approach control (TRACON) and requested air traffic control services to conduct a practice instrument approach into the Warrenton Airport. The Potomac TRACON controller was in the process of radar identifying the Cherokee when the collision occurred. The collision alert alarm had sounded on the controller’s console before the collision.

Investigation activities in progress

The TSB is proceeding along several avenues of investigation concurrently in order to understand why the aircraft collided. A field-of-view analysis is being performed for each aircraft to determine whether either aircraft would have been visible to either pilot as they approached.

The investigation is ongoing.Image

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