Pilots live to tell about dangers in the pattern

May 21, 2008

Airplanes converging on final approach can find themselves in precarious spots. On a few occasions they’ve flown so close, they’ve gotten stuck together.

On May 15, a Piper Cherokee landed on top of a Stinson at Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke, Texas. The Piper was carrying a flight instructor and a student while only the pilot was aboard the Stinson. The Piper was apparently landing while the Stinson was starting its takeoff, according to press reports. The final approach path is obsured by trees. Luckily, no one was seriously injured.

Photos by Rex Lake

Most midair collisions take place close to airports and in good weather conditions. That’s why you have to be especially careful on final approach. This brings to mind two other accidents in recent years where, as they say, airplanes swapped paint in the landing pattern.

In 2004 a Cessna 152 and a Cessna 172 Skyhawk collided on approach to Cincinnati West Airport in Harrison, Ohio. The two aircraft became locked together in flight at 300 feet agl and spiraled into a gravel pit. The pilots and a passenger in the Cessna 172 suffered serious injuries.

And in 1999, a student pilot and her CFI survived a freak midair collision involving a Piper Cadet and a Cessna 152 in Plant City, Fla., Municipal Airport. The two airplanes locked together and landed safely.