21 February 2010

Midair Collision Between a Cirrus SR20 and a Glider Towplane

On February 6, 2010, a Cirrus SR20 airplane (N825BC) collided with a Piper PA-25-235 airplane (N8718L), while the Piper was conducting glider tow operations with , a Schweizer SGS 2-32 glider (N2472W), near Boulder, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and all three aircraft were operating without flight plans. The pilot and sole occupant aboard the Piper was killed as was the pilot and passenger aboard the Cirrus.

The pilot of the glider saw the Cirrus approaching and was able to disengage the tow rope just prior to the collision. Although the glider pilot flew through a fireball caused by the collision, he was able to land without further incident. The glider was undamaged, and no one on board that aircraft was injured. The Piper and Schweizer departed Boulder Municipal Airport (KBDU), Boulder, Colorado, as a glider tow flight approximately 1:15 pm, roughly 12 minutes before the accident. The Cirrus aircraft had departed Erie Municipal Airport (KEIK), Erie, Colorado, at approximately 12:45 pm.

According to a statement taken from the pilot of the glider, the tow plane and glider were in a climb attitude, on an approximate heading of west. The Cirrus was heading south.

Multiple witnesses heard the collision between the two airplanes and observed the post collision state of both airplanes. The Cirrus airplane was observed to descend under the canopy of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) while on fire. Debris from both airplanes was spread over a 1.5-mile area with components of the Piper at the north most end of the debris field and the main wreckage of the Cirrus at the southern most end of the debris field. Both airplanes were destroyed.

In the interview below from the Today Show, the pilot and two passengers from the glider provide a sense of just how close this was to being an accident involving three crashed aircraft. Also included are portions of witness videos that show the burning Cirrus descending to the ground by parachute.

According to the NTSB, the Cirrus series of aircraft have been involved in at least65 fatal crashes in the US and around the world between 1992 and the fatal crash in Boulder.

17 February 2010

Plane Crash Kills Several Tesla Motors Employees

17 February 2010
East Palo Alto, CA

A twin-engined Cessna 310R (N5225J) crashed in an East Palo Alto neighborhood shortly after taking off from the Palo Alto Airport. The aircraft, which was flying to the Los Angeles area, took off under a dense fog advisory with zero to one-quarter mile visibility. The aircraft reportedly struck an electrical transmission tower and power lines before crashing into a residential neighborhood less than a mile from the airport. Several buildings were hit, including one with a day care center. There were several people inside the building, including one child, and all escaped without injury.

As a result of the crash, power was knocked out for much of the Palo Alto area, leaving the headquarters of companies such as Stanford Hospital, Hewlett-Packard, and Facebook in the dark.

The three people killed were all high level employees of Tesla Motors, one of the companies run by Elon Musk, one of the founders of PayPal and also the head of the private rocket company SpaceX.

Sounds of Crash Captured by Security System
The city of East Palo Alto, where the crash occurred, uses an advanced audio detection system that allows police to quickly find the locations of gunshots. This ShotSpotter system recorded the sounds of the crash from two locations.

First there is the sound of a plane's engines. Then a crackling noise, as though the plane has hit a power line. Then, crashing sounds, as parts of the aircraft landed on homes; a loud bang as the plane impacted with the ground; and a few seconds after the crash, people screaming as the plane fuselage skidded down Beech Street and plowed into walls and cars in the neighborhood.

According to Joshua Cawthra, lead investigator for the NTSB, it is the first time in aviation history that such a recording will be used for forensic purposes. Recordings taken from two of the sensor locations initially have the sounds of the aircraft's engines, followed by the sounds of the aircraft hitting power lines, and finally the sounds of pieces hitting the ground and of residents reacting to the crash.

Sounds of plane crash alone

Sounds of plane crash plus screams of neighbors

The ShotSpotter sensors each contain a GPS receiver with a precision clock, providing the NTSB with a precise, millisecond-by-millisecond recording of the incident, as captured by five ShotSpotter sensors deployed throughout East Palo Alto. According to the East Palo Alto police, the sensors were located at various distances from the crash, the closest being just over 600 feet away and the furthest being roughly 1,500 feet away.

The photos below depict the damage at the building housing the day care center, as well as an overview of the area with the area of the crash circled, and the path of the power lines highlighted.

Additional Information
San Jose Mercury News
KGO Television
Stanford Daily

Photo Credits: KGO television, Nader Khouri, Google Earth

Photo Notes: Top photo is from 2001 and shows accident pilot Doug Bourn filling the tanks of the accident aircraft (N5225J)

06 February 2010

New Challenger Video Surfaces after 24 Years

The explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger was filmed and photographed from many angles, and over the last 24 years millions have seen these images. Recently, a new video emerged which until this year had not been seen by the general public.

On the day of Challenger's last launch, optometrist Dr. Jack Moss was in Winter Haven, Florida, a town southeast of Orlando and about 60 miles from the launch site, videotaping the launch. He donated his video to the Space Exploration Archive in Louisville, Kentucky last December, shortly before his death.

The video shows the disaster from a totally different perspective, both from the location from where the video was shot, to the reaction of Moss and his neighbors as they go from sensing something was unusual about the launch, to the realization that the shuttle had exploded.

Article from the Courier-Journal newspaper of Louisville, Kentucky