A Bump in the Day VFR

The NTSB has released its final report on a 17 March 2023 accident in which a 1950-vintage Ryan Navion A, registration N610, and a 1987 Yakovlev YAK-52, registration N2504U, collided while taking part in a formation flight in the vicinity of Mesa, Arizona. The incident saw both aircraft substantially damaged and one of the Navion’s two occupants seriously injured.

The pilot of the Yak-52 reported he was taking part in a four-airplane formation flight. At the time of the collision, the Yak-52 was in the formation’s number-three position, off the left wing of the flight’s lead airplane.

The pilot of the lead airplane initiated a left turn, and the formation followed. While in the left turn, the pilot of the Yak-52 felt what he described as “a bump” from beneath his aircraft, and observed the flight’s number-four airplane (the Navion) pass beneath his right wing before ascending toward the lead airplane. Concluding a mid-air collision had occurred, the pilot of the Yak-52 broke left from the formation, and executed an emergency landing. Upon post-flight inspection, the pilot observed the Yak-52’s right wing had sustained substantial damage.

The Navion pilot reported he, too, was taking part in a four-airplane formation flight. At the time of the collision, the Navion was in the formation’s number-four position, off the number-three aircraft’s left wing.

The pilot of the lead airplane initiated a left turn, and the formation followed. The Navion pilot set forth that as he “felt to level off”, his airplane collided with the underside of the formation’s number-three aircraft.

The Navion pilot executed an emergency landing. Upon postflight inspection the pilot observed substantial damage to the Navion’s fuselage, vertical stabilizer, and rudder.

The pilots of both airplanes reported no pre-accident mechanical anomalies therewith.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of the accident was the Navion pilot’s failure to maintain sight of and clearance from the Yak-52.

Parties interested in learning more about the described event should reference NTSB Accident Number WPR23LA129.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov