Mid-Air Aviation Collision Occurs Over Lake Hartridge In Winter Haven
On March 7, 2023, the Polk County Sherriff’s Office announced that a mid-air aircraft-to-aircraft collision occurred when two small planes were flying over Lake Hartridge, in Winter Haven, Florida. There were two people on-board each aircraft. Sadly, all four of the occupants died. One plane was a Piper J3 Cub float plane, and the other aircraft was a Piper Cherokee. The Piper Cherokee was reported to have been practicing touch and go maneuvers at Winter Haven Reginal Airport (KGIF) and the Piper Cub was based out of Jack Browns Seaplane Base (F57) on Lake Hartridge. Each plane contained a flight instructor and a student-pilot. After colliding in mid-air, the planes both plummeted into Lake Hartridge and recovery efforts were immediately made to rescue any survivors.
Mid-air plane collisions, although rare, do occur for various reasons. Mid-air collisions can occur when one or both planes do not make visual contact with each other and fail to maintain separation. There are Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety rules for aircrafts when flying in visual flight conditions (VFR). These rules include, when planes are flying in the same direction, such as, west-bound planes are supposed to fly even altitudes on their altimeters plus 500 feet and planes flying east-bound are required to fly odd altitudes plus 500 feet giving a total separation between aircraft 1000 feet between each aircraft to avoid a potential collision. When pilots fly VFR in the same direction it is imperative to make and keep good visual contact and separation on all aircraft nearby. This can be difficult when planes are descending and climbing, especially when a low wing aircraft is above a high wing aircraft. When this occurs, it is hard for the pilots to see each other because of their wing configurations. If the high wing aircraft is below the low wing aircraft the pilot of the high wing may not be able clearly look up above to see the low wing aircraft, and visa-versa. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) safety team is conducting full investigation that will result in a Preliminary Report which can be accessed online within 2-6 weeks. The Preliminary Report will contain a short factual summary of the event, including information about the type of aircraft and the environment surrounding the crash. The full NTSB Report will not be available until about 12-24 months after the crash. The NTSB, with primary investigative powers, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supporting, usually conduct a complex investigation involving the recovery of component pieces from the crash and scene, together with pilot qualifications, flight logs, maintenance logs and other records. The NTSB will conclude its investigation with the Final NTSB Report making a probable cause determination on how and why the plane crash occurred.
Attorney Dan Moody is a local instrument rated pilot who has over 20 years of flying experience with thousands of hours of flight time. Mr. Moody and his law firm, Moody Law, have handled many high profile aviation cases and have experience helping families who have lost love ones resulting from aviation crashes. Contact Moody Law to schedule a free consultation to discuss our qualifications and your case.