Two Piper J3C-65s Tangle over Texas

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its final report on a 03 November midair collision between two Piper J3C-65 airplanes conducting flight operations at Weslaco, Texas’s Mid Valley Airport (TXW).

On 03 November 2020, about 17:53 CST, two Piper J3C-65 airplanes, N87715 and N6463H, were substantially damaged during a midair collision at Mid Valley Airport (TXW), Weslaco, Texas. The student pilot flying N87715 was not injured, and the airline transport pilot flying N6463H sustained serious injuries. Both airplanes were operated as Part 91 personal flights.

The pilot of N87715 reported that visual meteorological conditions prevailed during his local flight in the traffic pattern for runway 14 at TXW. He stated that on his third touch-and-go landing he made a normal wheel-landing and the airplane touched down about 1,000-feet from the runway’s approach end. After the airplane’s tailwheel contacted the runway the student pilot advanced the throttle to takeoff power and the airplane accelerated to liftoff speed. The pilot stated that the airplane became airborne about midfield and continued to climb over the runway. The pilot reported that during the upwind climb his aircraft drifted right (west) of the runway 14 centerline. Subsequently, while his attention was occupied with scanning the flight instruments, his airplane collided with another aircraft at an altitude of approximately eighty-feet AGL. The student pilot reported that after the collision he was unable to maintain control of his airplane and that both aircraft descended intermingled to the ground. The crash site was in a grass area located about 110-feet west of TXW runway 14/32.

The Airline Transport Pilot of N6463H reported that he was operating in the airport traffic pattern for runway 14 with two other airplanes. He stated that after turning from base leg to final approach he realized that his airplane was overly-close to the aircraft  (N87715) ahead of him in the traffic pattern. The ATP decided to go-around and sidestepped to the right of runway 14 for purpose of creating separation between the two aircraft. The ATP maintained visual contact with the other airplane, keeping it below and at his 9-to-10 o’clock position as he continued his go-around. The ATP pilot stated that shortly after he shifted his gaze to the right side of his airplane to assess the traffic pattern environment, the other airplane “made an apparent right turn” and collided with his airplane. The pilot was unable to maintain control of his airplane after the collision and it descended to the ground intermingled with the other aircraft.

Neither airplane was equipped with an electrical system or handheld radio.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause(s) of the accident to be:

The pilot of N87715 inadvertently allowed his airplane to drift right of the runway during the climb after a touch-and-go landing, and the pilot of N6463H did not maintain adequate separation from the other airplane during his go-around. Contributing to the accident was the lack of two-way radio communication equipment in both airplanes.