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N7404C accident description

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Tail numberN7404C
Accident dateSeptember 18, 1994
Aircraft typeNorth American SNJ-4
LocationReno, NV
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On September 18, 1994, at 1010 hours Pacific daylight time, a North American SNJ-5, N8540Z, and a North American SNJ-4, N7404C, collided about 2 miles west of the Reno-Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada. Both airplanes were beginning a local visual flight rules air race. N8540Z entered an uncontrolled descent and collided with a nearby home. N8540Z, registered to and operated by WW II Warbirds, Inc., Orchard Park, New York, was destroyed by the impact forces; N7404C, registered to and operated by the pilot, sustained substantial damage. The certificated commercial pilot, the sole occupant aboard N7404C, landed the airplane at Reno-Stead Airport without further incident and he did not sustain any injuries. The certificated airline transport pilot, the sole occupant aboard N8540Z, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flights originated at Reno-Stead Airport at 1000 hours.

The consensus of ground witnesses was that N8540Z overtook N7404C and struck N7404C with its left wing from below. A participating race pilot reported that the airplanes were to be lined up abreast of each other at the beginning of the race. He said that N8540Z moved out of position before the airplanes reached the visible staging area. When the airplanes reached the staging area, N8540Z appeared to move back into position, but the pilot overcorrected the alignment and struck N7404C.

N7404C

The pilot of N7404C submitted a National Transportation Safety Board, Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report, NTSB Form 6120.1/2 to the Safety Board's Southwest Regional Office on September 28, 1994. He said that the pace airplane just released the six SNJ's/T-6's lined up abreast each other. Then he felt ". . . a severe impact. . . " on the right wing and he saw a ". . . white flash go under my acft [aircraft] & above my canopy. . . ." The pace airplane was between 1,000 and 1,500 feet above ground level.

The pilot closed the throttle and lowered the main landing gears while experiencing severe vibrations. He regained control of the airplane and flew toward Reno- Stead Airport and landed without further incident on runway 08.

The airplane's left aileron and wing tip separated from their respective attach points. The right wing's leading edge from the tip to 10 1/2 feet inboard sustained substantial damage.

Video Tape

Two commercial broadcast stations and an individual gave the Safety Board video tapes of the accident. The commercial broadcast stations presented these videos with various angles and zoom attributes.

The video tapes show that the airplanes were flying an abreast formation toward the east. Two pace airplanes, emanating trailing smoke, were on the north side of the formation. When the pace airplanes pulled out of the formation, the airplanes began to descend; N7404C trailed the other airplanes during the descent.

N8540Z was behind N7404C. N8540Z began to accelerate and descend below N7404C. When N8540Z was beneath N7404C, it entered a right banking attitude and, milliseconds later, the collision occurred.

N8540Z pitched upward and its vertical stabilizer and both horizontal stabilizers separated; the rudder remained connected to the airplane by its control cables. When the flight was in a near-vertical climbing attitude, the left wing folded upward, followed by the separation of the left wing's outer panel. The airplane began to cartwheel and spin until it crashed.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector from the Reno Flight Standards District Office conducted the on-site investigation. The inspector said all the separated parts of the airplane were recovered within 300 feet of the main wreckage area.

Photographs provided by the inspector show that N7404C's left aileron separated from its attachments at the collision. The undersides of both wings displayed propeller slash marks and spanwise rubbing signatures. The upper leading edge of the right wing displayed debris impact marks.

The Washoe County Coroner's Office did an autopsy on the pilot of N8540Z. The pathologist did not report any findings that the pilot had any condition or disease that would have detracted from his ability to fly an airplane.

The FAA, Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological examinations on the pilot of N8540Z. The examinations were negative for alcohol or drugs.

Toxicological examinations on the pilot of N7404C were not conducted nor were they requested.

On September 18, 1994, at 1010 hours Pacific daylight time, a North American SNJ-5, N8540Z, and a North American SNJ-4, N7404C, collided about 2 miles west of the Reno-Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada. Both airplanes were beginning a local visual flight rules air race. N8540Z entered an uncontrolled descent and collided with a nearby home. N8540Z, registered to and operated by WW II Warbirds, Inc., Orchard Park, New York, was destroyed by the impact forces; N7404C, registered to and operated by the pilot, sustained substantial damage. The certificated commercial pilot, the sole occupant aboard N7404C, landed the airplane at Reno-Stead Airport without further incident and he did not sustain any injuries. The certificated airline transport pilot, the sole occupant aboard N8540Z, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flights originated at Reno-Stead Airport at 1000 hours.

The consensus of ground witnesses was that N8540Z overtook N7404C and struck N7404C with its left wing from below. A participating race pilot reported that the airplanes were to be lined up abreast of each other at the beginning of the race. He said that N8540Z moved out of position before the airplanes reached the visible staging area. When the airplanes reached the staging area, N8540Z appeared to move back into position, but the pilot overcorrected the alignment and struck N7404C.

N7404C

The pilot of N7404C submitted a National Transportation Safety Board, Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report, NTSB Form 6120.1/2 to the Safety Board's Southwest Regional Office on September 28, 1994. He said that the pace airplane just released the six SNJ's/T-6's lined up abreast each other. Then he felt ". . . a severe impact. . . " on the right wing and he saw a ". . . white flash go under my acft [aircraft] & above my canopy. . . ." The pace airplane was between 1,000 and 1,500 feet above ground level.

The pilot closed the throttle and lowered the main landing gears while experiencing severe vibrations. He regained control of the airplane and flew toward Reno- Stead Airport and landed without further incident on runway 08.

The airplane's left aileron and wing tip separated from their respective attach points. The right wing's leading edge from the tip to 10 1/2 feet inboard sustained substantial damage.

Video Tape

Two commercial broadcast stations and an individual gave the Safety Board video tapes of the accident. The commercial broadcast stations presented these videos with various angles and zoom attributes.

The video tapes show that the airplanes were flying an abreast formation toward the east. Two pace airplanes, emanating trailing smoke, were on the north side of the formation. When the pace airplanes pulled out of the formation, the airplanes began to descend; N7404C trailed the other airplanes during the descent.

N8540Z was behind N7404C. N8540Z began to accelerate and descend below N7404C. When N8540Z was beneath N7404C, it entered a right banking attitude and, milliseconds later, the collision occurred.

N8540Z pitched upward and its vertical stabilizer and both horizontal stabilizers separated; the rudder remained connected to the airplane by its control cables. When the flight was in a near-vertical climbing attitude, the left wing folded upward, followed by the separation of the left wing's outer panel. The airplane began to cartwheel and spin until it crashed. A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector from the Reno Flight Standards District Office conducted the on-site investigation. The inspector said all the separated parts of the airplane were recovered within 300 feet of the main wreckage area.

Photographs provided by the inspector show that N7404C's left aileron separated from its attachments at the collision. The undersides of both wings displayed propeller slash marks and spanwise rubbing signatures. The upper leading edge of the right wing displayed debris impact marks.

The Washoe County Coroner's Office did an autopsy on the pilot of N8540Z. The pathologist did not report any findings that the pilot had any condition or disease that would have detracted from his ability to fly an airplane.

The FAA, Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological examinations on the pilot of N8540Z. The examinations were negative for alcohol or drugs.

Toxicological examinations on the pilot of N7404C were not conducted nor were they requested.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.