On The Third Flyover, The Airplane Was Lower Than The Previous Passes And The Airplane’s Left Wing Struck The Model

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada Accident Number: WPR23LA259
Date & Time: June 24, 2023, 08:00 Local Registration: N307F
Aircraft: Aviat Aircraft Inc A-1B Aircraft Damage: Minor
Defining Event: AC/prop/rotor contact w person Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

Analysis: The pilot of the tailwheel equipped airplane reported that he intended to land on a dry lakebed behind a model that was being photographed and create a ‘wall of dust’ using the airplane for a photograph. During the landing roll, the pilot stated he was moving too fast to stop before reaching the model and elected to execute a go-around. He then returned to the lakebed and landed, where he saw that the model had been seriously injured.

According to the photographer, he and his model had been approached by the pilot, who offered his airplane as a backdrop for the photo shoot. After taking several photographs near the airplane, the pilot offered to overfly the model for additional photographs. The pilot flew over the model twice, and on the third flyover, the airplane was lower than the previous passes and the airplane’s left wing struck the model in the back of the head. Following the accident, the photographer obtained images from other photographers of the pilot performing similar maneuvers over other models at low altitude.

Title 14 of the Combined Federal Regulations, § 91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General, states: “Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes: (c) An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.”

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings: The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be — The pilot’s unsafe inflight operation of the airplane and failure to maintain clearance from a person on the ground, which resulted in a serious injury.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov