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Midair in Washington...

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Feb 18, 2005
2 Killed When Planes Collide In Midair

[size=-1]August 5, 2005

[/size][font=verdana, arial,geneva]RENTON - Two one-engine planes collided high over a busy freeway in Renton Thursday afternoon -- one crashed into an empty grade school and the student pilot and instructor on board died, officials said. They were both Boeing engineers in their 20s.

The second aircraft, a floatplane, made an emergency landing Thursday along a runway at nearby Renton Municipal Airport. All five people aboard scooted to safety after the deHavilland Beaver DHC-2 skipped across the grass for about 150 yards, bounced two or three times and skidded to a halt.

The Cessna 152 smashed through the roof of Kennydale Elementary School, a two-story building that was closed for remodeling after the end of the school year in June.

Construction workers had left the building for the day about half an hour earlier, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the collision, which occurred on a hot, clear day over Interstate 405 at the height of the afternoon commute.

Tom Little, an NTSB investigator, said the Cessna had been heading directly into the sun.

Karen Byrd, a Federal Aviation Administration duty officer, said the planes collided about 5:45 p.m. while approaching the airport about 25 minutes south of downtown Seattle.

Ambro Martin Jr. and his stepson watched the crash in horror from their car window as they drove down I-405.

"We thought there was going to be a little bit of a gap of distance between one or the other but just all of a sudden it was like 'bam' it hit," he said.

"Just as they clipped," Jesus Calles said, "the engine just smoked and then it just like it spiraled all the way down."

Renton police spokeswoman Penny Bartley confirmed two deaths in the plane that crashed into Kennydale Elementary School.

Byrd said the deceased appeared to be the only passengers aboard the single-engine Cessna 152.

The victims' bodies were removed from the school building Thursday night. They were not immediately identified.

"There's no flight plan on file, but from what the fire department told me there was just two people on board," Byrd said.

The planes were approaching the Renton airport, located at the south end of Lake Washington, when the collision happened.

"Both aircraft were coming in from the north ... and were pretty much side by side," Byrd said.

Other than Boeing 737s assembled at a neighboring factory, the airport at the south end of Lake Washington is used mostly by small aircraft.

Airport operations specialist Bruce Fisher, said both planes were under the direction of the airport's air traffic controllers.

Fred Bahr, the pilot of the floatplane, said there was little warning before the collision.

"All of the sudden I just saw a red and white flash just go under us, and that's all I saw - a momentary flash of red and white."

"We were very lucky after the impact to realize we were still flying," said Lee McEachron, a passenger in the floatplane. "If it had hit us a couple of feet higher it would have wiped us out."

Because the plane's pontoons were damaged in the collision, Bahr decided not to land on the water.

The 47-year-old floatplane, arriving from a resort in Barclay Sound on the west coast of British Columbia, circled the airport tower so officials could assess damage before the emergency landing on a grass median along the airport runway.

"I just came in and slowed it as much as I could and just put it down in the grass out here," he said. "It did some real violent pitches just as we touched down of course cause the floats broke loose."

Bahr said pilot of the other plane may have been flying into the sun and didn't see him. He also said there was a lot of air traffic and the control tower was extremely busy.

But instead of placing blame he offered a prayer for the people in the other plane. "I'm just praying for the family," he said, "praying to God."

The "one-engine planes"... :D

Very sad though that two people lost their lives in this accident. RIP.

I had a near midair this afternoon taking off with a fellow pilot who I've been working with to bring him back up to speed in his high performance aircraft. We took off out of a uncontrolled field, and was on our crosswind when all of a sudden 200-300 feet above us a Cessna 172 blows past us oblivious to us being there. I immediately made a radio callout to see if he was on radio and heard no reply. Things can happen that quickly out there, we all need to be careful!
I remember being on a 3-4 mile final with a student one day, and I hear tower tell a 152 downwind that they're drifting into the final approach path.

Hooooooly cow, upon hearing this, I looked out in front and pretty much this guy flies right beneath me maybe 200' opposite direction. As I see him I quickly take the controls and push the throttle in, and pull up into a chandelle-like climb. Man was I angry.

It always seems like students have trouble maintaining a parallel downwind beyond abeam. Usually its a wide downwind. You need to pick a point in the distance off the horizon and fly towards it, finding perhaps points along the ground that make up an imaginary line heading towards this "vanishing point," and try to fly over each point. That's the way I like to teach it.

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