An observation (not an accusation): Having your Autopilot on and having an anti-collision system (such as PCAS) does not relieve you of the duty or the necessity of a good visual scan. No system is perfect (including a visual scan); but vigilance and a combination of tools and techniques is far better than relying on any single system to keep you safe.
I agree with the above comment. Since this was not the oft-feared scenario where a high-wing plane climbs into a low-wing plane (or a low-wing descends into a high-wing) but seemingly the opposite, it would seem like there should have been the opportunity for one or both pilots to see and avoid.
One can imagine a scenario with a complacent Cirrus pilot (relying on autopilot and anti-collision hardware) and a distracted CFI (giving instruction in the 152) could both have failed to look out the window. I don't know if that's what happened here, but at first read it appears this accident might have been avoided. In any case, I'm grateful that the only big losers here are insurance companies and not loved ones.
I thought the "aviate" in Aviate, Navigate, Communicate included observation.
Here is the text of the FAA preliminary report. The URL is http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief.aspx?ev_id=20130204X05610&key=1
NTSB Identification: CEN13LA149A
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, February 01, 2013 in College Station, TX
Aircraft: Cirrus Design Corporation SR22, registration: N247RB
Injuries: 1 Minor,2 Uninjured.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On February 1, 2013, at 0805 central standard time, a Cirrus model SR22 airplane, N247RB, and a Cessna model 152 airplane, N93124, collided in-flight about 13 miles west-southwest of Easterwood Field Airport (KCLL), College Station, Texas. Both airplanes were able to land at KCLL following the collision. The Cirrus SR22 sustained substantial damage to the upper cockpit fuselage structure and the commercial pilot sustained minor injuries. The Cessna 152 sustained minor damage to the right main landing gear assembly and the flight instructor and student pilot were not injured. The Cirrus was owned by a private individual, but operated by the Cirrus Aircraft Corporation as demonstration airplane. The Cessna 152 was owned and operated by the Texas A&M Flying Club. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. Both flights were being conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The Cirrus SR22 departed Austin Executive Airport (KEDC) at 0748 and was en route to KCLL. The Cessna 152 departed KCLL at 0744 for a local instructional flight.
According to a statement provided by the Cirrus pilot, after departure he proceeded direct to KCLL under visual flight rules conditions. After the airplane had climbed above the departure airport’s traffic pattern altitude he engaged the autopilot system. The flight climbed to the desired cruise altitude of 3,500 feet mean sea level (msl) while proceeding direct KCLL. The pilot reported that as the airplane approached KCLL with the autopilot system engaged, at 3,500 feet msl, the windshield imploded from an apparent impact with an external object. He initially thought that his airplane had impacted a bird because he had not received any alerts from the airplane’s traffic advisory system nor did he see another aircraft before the impact. He subsequently recovered from an unintended descent before proceeding direct toward KCLL after declaring an emergency with the tower controller. The pilot reported that he had not established radio contact with the tower controller before the collision. A landing was made on runway 16 without further incident.
According to a statement provided by the Cessna flight instructor, the local area training flight was with a primary student on her second instructional flight. The flight consisted of basic attitude flight maneuvers, including level and climbing turns, climbs and descents to predetermined altitudes, and maintaining level flight while tracking a course. The flight instructor stated that they were climbing to 3,500 feet msl while maintaining a southeast heading when they felt an impact and heard a loud bang. He reported that the impact originated from the right side of the airplane, aft of the main cabin. The flight instructor noted that there were no apparent flight control issues after the collision and that he visually ascertained that there was no damage to the right wing. Shortly after the collision, his student saw another airplane in a rapid descent at their 10-o’clock position. The flight instructor entered a descending left turn to follow the other airplane. Shortly thereafter, the flight instructor heard another airplane declare an emergency on the tower frequency due to an imploded windshield. He noted that they were monitoring the tower frequency before the collision, but had not established radio contact with the tower controller. He turned in the general direction of KCLL with the intention of returning to the airport, while continuing to monitor the tower controller’s communications with the other aircraft. The flight instructor noted that at some point he told the tower controller that they had hit something and were returning to the airport. The tower controller requested that the Cessna stay west of the airport while the other aircraft landed. After the other airplane had landed, the tower controller transmitted that the other airplane had tire marks on its roof and requested that they make a low approach in order to verify the condition of their landing gear. The flight instructor stated that he then visually ascertained that his airplane was missing its right main landing gear wheel. His student, seated in the left seat, then visually confirmed that the left landing gear and wheel appeared undamaged. After informing the tower controller of their damage, they were asked to perform a low pass and then to circle the airport until emergency equipment was in position. After circling the airport several times the flight instructor made an uneventful landing on runway 22.
At 0753, the KCLL automated surface observing system reported the following weather conditions: wind calm, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 7 degrees Celsius, dew point 3 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 30.35 inches of mercury.
My guess is the FAA will try to pin this on the instructor in the 152, who may have been distracted while teaching the student an d failed to adequately scan for other aircraft. The Cirrus pilot appears to have flown directly from Austin Executive to Easterwood Field Airport. I assume his strobes and nav lights were on.
Thank goodness both pilots and the student are alive to talk about it, which could easily have been a triple fatality but for pure luck. Goyer must feel fortunate he wasn't at the controls, an relieved hi friend is safe. Both planes' insurance premiums are likely to go up, but that beats getting smashed to bits at up to 250 knots closure rate.
There's no substitute for keeping your head on a swivel when VFR, especially near airports or in transit routes between two nearby airports. When the best efforts of pilots to see and avoid aren't sufficient to prevent an accident, we all hope this kind of good fortune is on our side.
Airport Operations Specialist
Agree. I have a Zaon XRX connected to a yoke-mounted Garmin 796 in my C177B Cardinal II PLUS terminal traffic on a Garmin 430WAAS/Garmin Mode S transponder. I never stop scanning for traffic, though I do relax just a little when I have flight following. Fixing to add ADS-B in/out to the 430, and expect to keep up the same regimen. Despite what you have (absent active radar), in VFR it's see and being seen/see and avoid, even with flight following. Interesting that there's no detail about radio transmissions (freqs), tower contact at CLL, and whether the Cirrus was talking to Houston Approach. That said: I'm glad that it ended as it did. It could've been way worse.
The rule of thumb--
Aviate, Navigate, Communicate should probably be changed to-
Aviate, Observate, navigate, communicate
Contemplate and anticipate could work there too.
It will be interesting to see if the FAA or NTSB ever lay definitive blame on anyone here; other than the stale recitation of both pilot's required "see and avoid". I'm leaning into this being a variation of the high/low wing thing with the Cirrus view being blocked by the roof line, the 152 being in a right turn (that explains why only the right gear went) and probably a hundred knots speed differential accounting for a lack of reaction time.
It's also necessary to point out that if the 152 was in bank away from the Cirrus the transponder antenna was very effectively shielded (even if working). Aircraft with certified TCAS systems have a top transponder antenna installed for just that reason. My PCAS's (yes, I carry two!) often lose target below me.
Yeah, it probably was avoidable. Avoidable in the real-world? Obviously not. Careless or reckless? Can't say, but I'm gonna give all three pilot's a passing grade on handling a really tough situation well.
Actually, this accident might have been quite difficult to avoid.
The C152 was climbing from below the Cirrus and to the right. The cowling and/or wing would have limited the opportunity for the Cirrus pilot to see the Cessna. When the Cessna climbed through the Cirrus' altitude, the pilot might have seen it - but given the closing angles it's quite likely that the Cessna was hidden by the Cirrus pilot's A-pillar on the windshield. They would have been so close at this point that avoidance would likely not have been successful, anyway.
The C152 would have had an even more difficult time seeing the Cirrus, which was closing in from above and behind. The C152 wing would have completely obscured the Cirrus; the instructor MIGHT have seen it as he climbed through 3500' if he looked straight backwards...