Tag Archives: Piper Aircraft Corporation

18 May 1966–20 June 1966

Sheila Scott in the cockpit of her Piper PA-24-260B Comanche G-ATOY, Myth Too, 1966.
Sheila Scott in the cockpit of her Piper PA-24-260B Comanche, G-ATOY, Myth Too, 1966.

18 May 1966: Sheila Scott O.B.E., (née Sheila Christine Hopkins) departed London Heathrow Airport, London, England, on the first solo around-the-world flight by a British subject, the longest-distance solo flight, and only the third around-the-world flight by a woman. Her airplane was a 1966 Piper PA-24-260B Comanche, registration G-ATOY, which she had named Myth Too.

Sheila Scott had been a nurse at Haslar Naval Hospital during World War II. She was an actress on the stage, in films and on television. In 1959 she followed a lifetime ambition and learned to fly. She owned or leased several airplanes which she entered in races or used to establish flight records.

Scott was a commercial pilot, rated in single and multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes and helicopters. She was a member of The Ninety-Nines, founding and serving as governor of the British branch. She was also a member of the Whirly-Girls and the International Association of Licensed Women Pilots.

Sheila Scott was the author of I Must Fly and On Top of the World (Barefoot With Wings in the United States).

Sheila Scott's Piper PA-24-260B Comanche, G-ATOY, Myth II, after her around the world flight. The signatures on the wings and fuselage were collected at stops along the way.
Sheila Scott’s Piper PA-24-260B Comanche, G-ATOY, Myth Too, after her around the world flight. The signatures on the wings and fuselage were collected at stops along the way.

Departed London, England 18 May 1966
Rome, Italy
Athens, Greece
Damascus, Syria
Barhain
Karachi, Pakistan
Jaipur, India
Delhi, India
Calcutta, India
Rangoon, Burma
Butterworth, Malaysia
Singapore
Bali, Indonesia
Sumbawa, Indonesia
Darwin, Australia
Mount Isa, Australia
Brisbane, Australia
Sydney, Australia
Auckland, New Zealand
Norfolk Island
Nandi, Fiji
Pago Pago, Samoa
Canton Island
Honolulu, HI
San Francisco, CA
Phoenix, AZ
El Paso, TX
Oklahoma City, OK
Louisville, KY
New York, NY
Gander, Newfoundland
Lagens, Azores
Lisbon, Portugal
Arrived London, England 20 June 1966

The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.
The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom.

The flight covered approximately 31,000 miles (49,890 kilometers) and took 189 actual flight hours over 34 days.

During her around-the-world flight, Shiela Scott set ten Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed Over a Recognised Course: London to Rome, 258.13 kilometers per hour(160.40 miles per hour) (FAI Record File Numbers 4679, 4680); London to Auckland, 41.42 km/h (25.74 mph) #4660, 4661; London to Darwin, 45.67 km/h (28.38 mph) #4666, 4670; London to Fiji Islands, 34.60 km/h (21.50 mph) #4672; 4673; Lisbon to London, 244.00 km/h (151.62 mph) #4956, 4657. During her flying career, she set a total of 76 FAI World Records.

Harmon Aviatrix Trophy (NASM)

For her accomplishments, Ms. Scott was awarded the Silver Medal of the Guild of Pilots; the Brabazon of Tara Award for 1965, 1966 and 1967; the Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, 1968; and the Harmon International Trophy for 1966.

Italy gave her the title, Isabella d’Este. Sheila Scott was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the New Years Honours List, 1 January 1968.

Sheila Scott flew around the world twice in Myth Too, and a third time in a twin-engine Piper Aztec, Mythre. She died of cancer, 20 October 1988, at the age of 61 years.

Myth Too was built by the Piper Aircraft Corporation in 1966 and was registered N8893P. It was a PA-24-260B Comanche, an all-metal 4–6 place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. It is flown by a single pilot and can carry three passengers, though an additional two seats can be mounted at the rear of the passenger cabin.

The airplane is 25 feet, 6 inches (7.772 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet (10.973 meters). Empty weight is 1,728 pounds (783.8 kilograms) and maximum gross weight is 3,100 pounds (1,406.1 kilograms).

The Comanche B is powered by an air-cooled, fuel-injected 541.511-cubic-inch-displacement (8.874 liter) Lycoming IO-540-D4A5 6-cylinder overhead valve (OHV) horizontally-opposed engine with a compression ration of 8.5:1, rated at 260 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., driving a two-bladed Hartzell constant speed propeller through direct drive. The IO-540-D4A5 weighs 384 pounds (174 kilograms).

Cruise speed is 185 miles per hour (297.7 kilometers per hour). The range is 1,225 miles (1,971.5 kilometers) and the service ceiling is 19,500 feet (5,943.6 meters).

Sheila Scott sold G-ATOY in 1975. It was substantially damaged 6 March 1979 when the engine lost oil pressure then seized after taking off from Elstree Aerodrome, Hertfordshire (EGTR). There were no injuries. The wreck is in the collection of the Scottish National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, East Lothian, Scotland.

The wreck of Myth Too, Piper PA-24-260B Comanche G-ATOY at the Scottish National Museum of Aviation. (Aviation Safety Network)
The wreck of Myth Too, Piper PA-24-260B Comanche G-ATOY at the Scottish National Museum of Aviation. (Aviation Safety Network)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 April–13 May 1963

Betty Miller steps out of the Piper Apache at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 13 May 1963. (Photograph by Barry Pascoe, from the Courier Mail Photo Archives)
Betty Miller steps out of the Piper Apache at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 13 May 1963. (Photograph by Barry Pascoe, from the Courier-Mail Photo Archives)

30 April–13 May 1963: Betty Miller, a 37-year-old flight instructor from Santa Monica, California, became the first woman to complete a solo Trans-Pacific flight. She was also the first pilot to make a Trans-Pacific flight without a navigator.

Betty Miller was delivering a twin-engine Piper PA-23-160 Apache H, N4315Y, from the United States to its owner in Australia, Fred Margison. An auxiliary fuel tank was placed in the passenger compartment.

Mrs. Miller began her flight from Oakland, California, at 6:35 a.m., Pacific Standard Time. The first leg was approximately 2,400 miles (3,682 kilometers) to Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, flown in 17 hours, 3 minutes. She was delayed there for 4 days while a radio was repaired.

Betty Miller with the Piper PA-23-160 Apache H at Honolulu, Hawaii, 30 April 1963. (Salt Lake Tribune)

The next stop was Canton Island, a small island in the Phoenix Islands, just south of the Equator and approximately half-way between Hawaii and Fiji. The elapsed time for this 1,700-mile (2,736 kilkometers) flight was 13 hours, 6 minutes. From Canton to Fiji was 1,250 miles (2,012 kilometers). The elapsed time was 8 hours, 27 minutes. On the fourth leg, intended to be the final stage, she was forced to divert to Noumea, New Caledonia, because of severe weather.

With delays for rest and waiting for good weather, Miller’s flight took nearly two weeks. She took off from Nadi Airport, Viti Levu, Fiji, at 4:47 a.m., local, and finally arrived at Eagle Farm Airport, Brisbane, Queensland, at 10:20 p.m., Australian Eastern Standard Time, after crossing 7,400 miles (11,909 kilometers) of ocean, in a total of 51 hours, 38 minutes in the air.

Betty Miller in the cockpit of the Piper Apache, before departing on her Trans-Pacific Flight. (Mercury News)
Betty Miller in the cockpit of the Piper Apache, before departing on her Trans-Pacific Flight. (Betty Miller collection)

Contemporary newspapers called Miller “the flying housewife,” which demeaned her actual qualifications. At the time of her Trans-Pacific flight, she was a commercial pilot and flight instructor, rated in single- and multi-engine airplanes and helicopters. She owned and operated a flight school and charter company based at Santa Monica Airport on the Southern California coast. In fourteen years as a pilot, Betty Miller had logged more than 6,500 hours of flight time.

Betty Miller with President John F. Kennedy at the White House.
Betty Miller with President John F. Kennedy at the White House. Left to right, Administrator Najeeb Halaby, Federal Aviation Administration; President Kennedy; Mrs. Miller; Mrs. Jane Briggs Hart; Mr. Charles Miller. (Robert L. Knudsen/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum KN-C29599)

President John F. Kennedy awarded Mrs. Miller the Federal Aviation Administration Gold Medal for Exceptional Service. On 14 September 1964, President Lyndon Johnson presented her with the Harmon International Trophy. (Also receiving the Harmon at the ceremony were Astronaut Gordon Cooper and test pilot Fitzhugh Fulton.)

Two years later, Mrs. Miller flew across the Atlantic Ocean.

Finally, in another first, the photograph of Betty Miller arriving at Brisbane was the very first to be transmitted by a new wire-photo process.

Betty Verret (Gondolier)

Betty Jean Verret was born 6 April 1926 at Venice, California. She was the second of three daughters of Earday Verret, a street car conductor, and Bertha DeLay Verret. She graduated from Venice High School in 1942.

Miss Verret was employed by the Civil Aeronautics Administration as an Aircraft Communicator. While working at Wendover, Utah, she met Chuck Miller. They married and lived in Santa Monica, California, where they operated a flight school.

Mrs. Miller was a member of the Ninety-Nines, the Whirly-Girls, and was chair of the FAA Women’s Advisory Committee.

Betty Jean Verret Miller died 21 February 2018 at Bountiful, Utah, at the age of 91 years.

Piper PA-23-160 Apache 23-2039, registered VH-IMB, at Archerfield Airport (ACF), near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, circa 1967. (Ed Coates Collection)

The airplane flown by Betty Miller was a Piper PA-23-160 Apache H, serial number 23-2039, manufactured in December 1961 by the Piper Aircraft Corporation at Vero Beach, Florida. It was assigned U.S. registration N4315Y and was painted white and “El Paso Brown” (a dark metallic brown color). In January 1962 the new Apache was delivered to Brown Flying Services, San Antonio, Texas.¹

The Piper PA-23-160 Apache H was a 4-place, twin-engine light airplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. It was 27 feet, 2 inches (8.280 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0 inches (11.278 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 1 inch (3.073 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 2,230 pounds (1,011.5 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 3,800 pounds (1,723.7 kilograms).

Lycoming O-320-B2B air-cooled 4-cylinder aircraft engine. (Lycoming)

The Apache H was powered by two air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 319.749-cubic-inch-displacement (5.240 liter) Lycoming O-320-B2B horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder overhead valve (OHV) engines with a compression ratio of 8.5:1. The O-320-B2B is a direct-drive, right-hand tractor engine, rated at 160 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. The O-320-B2B is 2 feet, 5.56 inches (0.751 meters) long, 2 feet, 8.24 inches (0.819 meters) wide and 1 foot, 10.99 inches (0.584 meters) high. It weighs 278 pounds (126.1 kilograms). The engines turned two-bladed Hartzell constant-speed propellers.

The PA-23-160 had a cruise speed of 150 knots (173 miles per hour/278 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed was 159 knots (183 miles per hour/295 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 17,000 feet (5,182 meters).

Piper PA-23-160 Apache H, registered VH-IMB, photographed at Broken Hill, New South Wales, 5 November 1978. (Photograph courtesy of Danny Tanner)
Piper PA-23-160 Apache H 23-2039, registered VH-IMB, photographed at Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia, 5 November 1978. (Photograph courtesy of Danny Tanner)

N4315Y was re-registered VH-IMB, 22 May 1963, after its arrival in Australia. The airplane remains operational.

Piper PA-23-160 Apache H VH-IMB. (Robert Frola via Wikipedia)
Piper PA-23-160 Apache H 23-2039, VH-IMB, registered to Beltana Aviation Pty. Ltd., photographed at Watts Bridge Airfield, Queensland, Australia, 28 August 2010.  (Robert Frola via Wikipedia)

¹ Thanks to Roger Peperell, Company Historian, Piper Aircraft, Inc., for researching the history of Betty Miller’s Apache.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 April 1945

Lt. Merritt Duane Francies (left) and Lt. William S. Martin with a Piper L-4J Grasshopper, 44-80699 (54 ☆ G) (Passion Aviation)

11 April 1945: 1st Lieutenant Merritt Duane Francies, Field Artillery, USA, and forward observer Lieutenant William S. Martin, 71st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 5th Armored Division, were flying a Piper L-4H Grasshopper on a reconnaissance mission near Dannenberg, Germany. This was Francies’ 142nd combat mission.

The Grasshopper (Piper Model J3C-65D) was named Miss Me!? Its U.S. Army serial number was 43-29905, and it was marked 54 ☆ J.

The two airmen saw an enemy Fieseler Fi 156 Storch flying beneath them. The Storch was similar to the Grasshopper. Both were single engine, high-wing monoplanes with fixed landing gear. The Storch was larger and faster, but both airplanes had similar missions during the War.

A Fieseler Fi 156 Storch, SJ+LL, Gran Sasso d’Italia, 12 September 1943. (Bundsarchiv, Bild 101I-567-1503C-04)

Francies put his L-4H into a dive and overtook the Luftwaffe airplane. Both American officers carried M1911 .45-caliber semi-automatic pistols, with which the fired on the Fieseler. Both officers emptied the 7-round magazines, then reloaded. The enemy airplane began to circle.

U.S. Pistol, Automatic, Caliber .45, M1911.

Lieutenant Francies approached again, coming to within an estimated 30 feet (9 meters) of the German airplane. Both opened fire again, striking the Storch in the windshield and in a fuel tank. It went into a spin, then crashed. Francies landed his airplane nearby.

The two German crewmen got out of the wrecked Fi 156 and tried to run, but the observer had been wounded in the foot. Lieutenant Martin fired a warning shot and the German pilot stopped, then surrendered.

The captured airmen were turned over to an American tank crew. Francies later said, “I never found out their names. They could have been important, for all I know. We turned them over to our tankers about 15 minutes later after the injured man thanked me many times for bandaging his foot. I think they thought we would shoot them.”

Francies and Martin with their kill
Duane Francies, Freshman, (The Cascade 1940)

Merritt Duane Francies was born 21 July 1921. He was the son of Merritt Charles Francies, a fruit farmer, and Kathleen I. Horan Francies. He studied at Seattle Pacific College for one year before he enlisted as private, Air Corps, United States Army, 10 December 1941, at Spokane, Washington. Private Francies was 5 feet, 10 inches (1.78 meters) tall and weighed 170 pounds (77 kilograms).

2nd Lieutenant Francies had trained as a pilot and was assigned to an L-4 light observation airplane to conduct reconnaissance for the 5th Armored Division. On 19 September 1944 he rescued a wounded forward observer, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. He was awarded an Air Medal on 27 September 1944. Francies received a battlefield promotion to 1st lieutenant, 15 January 1945.

Following the air-to-air battle with the Storch, Lieutenant Francies was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross, 24 April 1945. Major General Walter Jensen, 14th Army Corps, present the medal to him 22 years later, 13 March 1967.

Duane Francies married Miss Jo Ann Hulson in Lake County, Indiana, 29 March 1947. He died at Chelan, Washington, 5 May 2004.

A Piper J-3C-65 Cub, NX38505, in U.S. Army Markings, Louisiana, 1941. The second airplane is a Stinson O-49. (Hans Groenhoff Collection NASM SI-2004-51347)

The Piper L-4H Grasshopper is a single-engine, two-place strut-braced high-wing monoplane based on the civilian Piper J-3C Cub. In military service, it was used as a short-range reconnaissance and liaison aircraft. The cockpit had a tandem configuration. The airplane was constructed of a welded steel tube fuselage, and the wings had wooden spars and riveted aluminum ribs. It was covered with doped fabric.

The L-4H was 22 feet, 4½ inches (6.820 meters) long, with a wingspan of 35 feet, 2½ inches (10.732 meters). Its height, when parked in 3-point attitude, was 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) to the top of the propeller arc. The wing has a chord of 5 feet, 3 inches (1.600 meters) and a total area of square feet ( square meters). It has an angle of incidence of 1° 37′ and 0° 41′ negative twist. The variable incidence horizontal stabilizer has a span of 9 feet, 6 inches (2.896 meters). The Piper L-4H Grasshopper had an approximate empty weight of 740 pounds (336 kilograms), depending on installed equipment, and a maximum gross weight of 1,220 pounds (553 kilograms).

Piper L-4 Grasshopper (T. O. NO. 01-140DA-3, Structural Repair Instructions, at Page 2)

The Grasshopper was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 171.002-cubic-inch-displacement (2.802 liter) Continental O-170-3 (Continental A65-8), horizontally-opposed four-cylinder overhead-valve engine with a compression ratio of 6.3:1. It was rated at 65 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level for takeoff, and required a minimum of 73-octane gasoline. The direct-drive engine turned a two-blade fixed-pith propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters).

The L-4H had a maximum speed of 90 miles per hour (145 kilometers per hour), and an absolute ceiling of 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). With a fuel capacity of 12 U.S. gallons (45.4 liters), its maximum range was 206 miles (332 kilometers).

Piper J-3C Cub. (Hans Groenhoff Collection, NASM-HGC-1121)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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31 August 1986

Piper PA-28-181 Archer II, D-EHLY, serial number 28-7790224. This is the same type as the airplane involved in the 1986 Cerritos Mid-Air Collision. (Huhu Uet/Wikimedia Commons)

31 August 1986: At approximately 11:41 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time, William Kenneth Kramer departed Zamperini Field (TOA) at Torrance, California, flying a Piper PA-28-181 Archer II, FAA registration N4891F.

The PA-28-181 was a single-engine, four-place, light airplane with fixed tricycle landing gear, built by the Piper Aircraft Corporation in 1976. It carried the manufacturer’s serial number 77-90070. The airplane was owned by William Kramer.

In addition to the pilot, there were two passengers on board, Kathleen O’Connell Kramer, Kramer’s wife of 30 years, and their 26-year-old daughter, Caroline. The family’s destination was Big Bear City Airport (L35), high in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.

Photocopied image of a Los Angeles Terminal Control Area (TCA) chart, circa 1986, from NTSB report.
Image of a recent Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) airspace chart. (Los Angeles ARTCC)
Satellite image of the area illustrated on the TCA charts, above. (Imagery © 2018 Landsat)

Three major airports in the immediate area reported that the sky was clear and visibility was 14–15 miles (22.5–24.1 kilometers).

As Kramer climbed toward his cruise altitude, he deviated from the Visual Flight Rules (VFR) Flight Plan which he had filed with the nearby Hawthorne Flight Service Station prior to takeoff. Without authorization from Air Traffic Control, the pilot entered a segment of the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area.

Aeromexico’s Douglas DC-9-32 XA-JED, Hermosillo. (Photograph © Bob Garrard, used with permission.)

Aeroméxico Flight 498 was a regularly-scheduled flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles, with intermediate stops at Guadalajara, Loreto and Tijuana. The airliner was a 1969 McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32, serial number 47356, owned by Aeronaves de México S.A., and registered in Estados Unidos Mexicanos (Mexico) as XA-JED. Aeroméxico had named it Hermosillo.

The pilot in command of the airliner was Captain Antonio Valdez-Prom, with First Officer Jose Hector Valencia. There were four flight attendants and 58 passengers. The DC-9 was descending from 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) for an instrument approach and landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Flight 498 was descending in northwesterly direction, while the Archer was climbing, eastbound.

At 11:52:09 a.m., as the DC-9 descended through an altitude of approximately 6,660 feet (2,030 meters),¹ the Piper collided with the left side of the DC-9’s vertical fin, just below the horizontal stabilizer. The angle of collision was approximately 90°. The airliner’s entire horizontal stabilizer and rudder were torn from the aircraft.

All three persons aboard the light airplane were decapitated.² The Archer was heavily damaged, and with no one left alive to fly it, crashed on the playground of Cerritos Elementary School.

Crash site of Piper Archer II N4891F, photographed 1 September 1986. (Mike Sergieff/Herald-Examiner Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library)
Piper Archer PA-28-121 N4891F wreckage, 31 August 1981. (Thomas Kelsey, Los Angeles Times)
Piper Archer PA-28-181 N4891F wreckage at Cerritos Elementary School, 31 August 1986. (Thomas Kelsey, Los Angeles Times)

The DC-9’s cockpit voice recorder picked up Captain Valdez-Prom’s exclamation, “Oh [deleted], this can’t be!”

The Aeroméxico pilots had no way to control their damaged DC-9. It rolled inverted and crashed into a residential neighborhood in Cerritos, California.

Aeroméxico Flight 498 inverted after mid-air collision over Cerritos, California, 31 August 1986. (NTSB)

All 64 persons on the DC-9, and another 15 on the ground, were killed. Eight persons on the ground were injured. Five homes were destroyed and another seven were damaged.

Scene of the crash of the Aeromexico Flight 498, 31 August 1968. (Joe Kennedy, Los Angeles Times)
Firefighters at scene of Aeroméxico Flight 498 crash, 31 August 1986. (Paul Chinn/Herald-Examiner Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library)

William Kenneth Kramer held a Federal Aviation Administration Airman’s Certificate with Private Pilot privileges and an Airplane–Single Engine Land rating. His medical certificate required that he wear corrective lenses while flying. Kramer had been licensed by the FAA for six years, and at the time of the accident, he had flown a total of 231 hours.

Kramer had moved to the Los Angeles area from Spokane, Washington, less than a year earlier. He had made just seven flights, totaling 5.5 hours, in one of the most complex and congested Terminal Control Areas in the United States.

Captain Antonio Valdez-Prom had been employed by Aeroméxico for fourteen years. He held Airline Transport Pilot certificates in both Mexico and the United States, and was type-rated in the DC-9. He had flown a total of 10,641 hours, with 4,632 hours in the McDonnell Douglas DC-9.

First Officer Jose Hector Valencia had been employed by Aeroméxico for just over two years. He was a licensed Commercial Pilot in both Mexico and the United States. He had flown a total of 1,463 hours, with 1,245 hours in the DC-9. Like Kramer, Valencia was required to wear corrective lenses.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) placed the blame for the accident on the air traffic control system:

3.2               Probable cause

                     The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the limitations of the air traffic control system to provide collision protection, through both air traffic control procedures and automated redundancy. Factors contributing to the accident were (1) the inadvertent and unauthorized entry of the PA-28 into the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area and (2) the limitations of the “see and avoid” concept to insure traffic separation under the conditions of the conflict.

NTSB/AAR-87/07 Aircraft Accident Report—Midair Collision of Aeronaves de México, S.A., McDonnell Douglas DC-8-32, XA-JED and Piper PA-28-181, N4891F, Cerritos, California   August 31, 1986 Chapter 3 at Page 52

The devastated neighborhood in Cerritos where Aeroméxico Flight 498 crashed, 31 August 1986. (Paul Chinn/Herald-Examiner Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library)

♦♦♦ OPINION ♦♦♦

It is the opinion of This Day in Aviation that the Probable Cause of this accident as determined by the National Transportation Safety Board was a political statement. As far back as 1956, with the mid-air collision of a United Air Lines Douglas DC-7 and a Trans World Airlines Lockheed Super Constellation over the Grand Canyon of Arizona, the Civil Aeronautics Board and its successor, the NTSB, had repeatedly placed emphasis on the role of air traffic control (or, the lack thereof) in a number of mid-air collisions, and had been recommending numerous improvements.

TDiA believes that these recommendations were valid.

However, coming to a political conclusion hides the actual cause of the accident. When investigators look for a cause, they evaluate each individual factor. That single factor, which, if it had not occurred, results in no accident taking place—all other factors being the same—is the cause.

In this case, the pilot of the light airplane had filed a Visual Flight Rules flight plan that would have taken him initially to the southwest from Torrance Airport toward Long Beach Airport, and around the controlled airspace of Los Angeles International Airport. If he had followed his planned route no collision would have occurred. However, he flew directly east and as he climbed, he entered the Los Angeles TCA without ATC clearance. This was a significant violation of FAA regulations.

If the crew of Aeroméxico Flight 498 had performed in exactly the same way, flew the same path and descent, but the Piper Archer had remained clear of the TCA as required, there would have been no collision.

If air traffic controllers involved with the airliner and the private airplane had performed in exactly the same way as they had, but the Archer had not violated the TCA, there would have been no collision.

The inescapable conclusion is that William Kramer, by flying into the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area, caused the mid-air collision between his airplane and the Aeroméxico DC-9.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The National Transportation Safety Board reassembled the wreckage of the Piper Archer at Long Beach Airport to compare to damage of the DC-9’s horizontal stabilizer. The relative position of the aircraft in this 3 September 1986 photograph is not representative of the actual collision. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac via Kathryn’s Report)

¹ The Piper Archer’s altimeter was recovered and examined. Although the three pointers were missing, traces of paint from the pointers, called “slap marks,” were found on the dial face at positions corresponding to an altitude of 6,560 feet (1,999 meters).

² On 1 September 1986, The New York Times reported, “Bill Gold, a spokesman for the coroner’s office, said an autopsy showed that the pilot suffered the heart attack ‘within minutes before the fatal injuries.’ Mr. Gold said that the cause of death was ‘multiple traumatic injuries received in the crash.’ He said in an interview tonight that it had not been determined whether the heart attack led to the collision. ‘We can’t say whether it caused the collision,’ he said, ‘How severe it was we can’t say because he lived long enough to get the fatal injuries.’ “

In its 2 September 1986 edition, the Los Angeles Times reported, “An autopsy late Monday on the body of the man believed to be the pilot of the archer showed that he had suffered a heart attack just before the collision, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.”

In its accident report, the NTSB quotes from the autopsy report, ” ‘. . . complete proximal occlusion of the right coronary artery.’ ” The NTSB further stated, “The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) also reviewed the autopsy protocol and the heart of the pilot of the Piper. With regard to their examination of the pilot’s heart, the AFIP pathologists found severe coronary atheriosclerosis but ‘no necrosis or other evidence of acute myocardial infarction identified.’ ”

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 June 1971–4 August 1971

Sheila Scott on the wing of her Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D, Mythre, G-AYTO, 1971. (NASA)
Sheila Scott on the wing of her Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D, Mythre, G-AYTO, 1971. (NASA)

11 June 1971: Sheila Scott O.B.E. (née Sheila Christine Hopkins) departed Nairobi, Kenya, on her third solo around-the-world flight. On this flight she used a new airplane, a twin-engine Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D which she named Mythre. It carried United Kingdom registration G-AYTO. Scott used a NASA navigation and locator communication system to constantly relay her position to a Nimbus weather satellite, and from there to a ground station.

Sheila Scott's Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D, G-ATYO. Mythre.
Sheila Scott’s Piper PA-23-250 Aztec D, G-ATYO, Mythre, at Kidlington Airport, Oxfordshire, England, 1971. (Tim R. Badham)

Sheila Scott planned to not only fly around the world, but to fly from the Equator, over the North Pole, and back to the Equator again. She flew her Aztec from London, England, to Nairobi, Kenya, where she began the Equator–North Pole–Equator portion of the flight.

Scott took off from Nairobi on 11 June 1971 and headed northward to Khartoum, Sudan; Bengazi, Libya; Malta; arriving back at London on 21 June. From there she continued to Bodø, Norway; Andøya, Norway; Station Nord, Greenland; across the North Pole on 28 June; then southward to Barrow, Alaska; arriving at Anchorage, Alaska, on 3 July; San Francisco, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, on 11 July. She recrossed the Equator heading south to Canton Island. On 23 July, Mythre arrived at Nadi, Viti Levu, Fiji, and then flew on to Noumea, New Caledonia. After a stop at Townsville, Queensland, Scott arrived at Darwin, Northern Teritory, Australia, 1 August. From there she continued to Singapore; Madras, India; Karachi, Pakistan; Bahrain; Athens, Greece; and finally completed her journey at London on 4 August. The trip took 55 days.

During the circumnavigation, Sheila Scott set seven Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed Over a Recognized Course: Andøya, Norway, to Station Nord, Greenland, 213.61 kilometers per hour (132.73 miles per hour) ¹; Nord to Barrow, Alaska, 183.73 km/h (114.16 mph) ²; San Francisco, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, 236.56 km/h (146.99 mph) ³; Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, to London, England, 160.19 km/h (99.54mph). ⁴ Three of these records remain current. ⁵

Ms. Scott’s airplane was a 1971 Piper 23-250 Aztec (“Aztec D”), serial number 27-4568. The airplane was assigned the United Kingdom registration G-AYTO on 3 March 1971. The Aztec D was a six-place twin-engine light airplane based on the earlier PA-23-235 Apache, with a larger cabin and more powerful engines. It was of all-metal construction and had retractable tricycle landing gear. The Aztec D is 31 feet, 2.625 inches (9.516 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 1.750 inches (11.322 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 3.875 inches (3.146 meters). The wing has 5° dihedral. It has an empty weight of 3,042 pounds (1,380 kilograms) and a gross weight of 5,200 pounds (2,359 kilograms).

The Aztec D is powered by two air-cooled, fuel-injected, 541.511-cubic-inch-displacement (8.874 liter) AVCO Lycoming IO-540-C4B5 6-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, direct-drive engines. The -C4B5 has a compression ratio of 8.5:1 and a Maximum Continuous Power/Takeoff rating of 250 horsepower at 2,575 r.p.m. It weighs 374 pounds (170 kilograms). The engines drive two-bladed Hartzell constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 6 feet, 2 inches (1.880 meters).

The PA-23-250 Aztec D has a maximum structural cruising speed (VNO) of 172 knots (198 miles per hour/319 kilometers per hour) at 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) and maximum speed (VNE) of 216 knots 249 miles per hour (400 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 19,800 feet (6,035 meters). With standard fuel capacity of 144 gallons (545 liters) the airplane’s range is 1,055 miles (1,698 kilometers). Mythre carried an auxiliary fuel tank in the passenger cabin.

After the around-the-world flight, Scott returned Mythre to the Piper Aircraft Company at Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, for overhaul. Following Tropical Storm Agnes in June 1972, the Piper factory was flooded to a depth of 16 feet (4.9 meters) and Scott’s airplane, along with many others and much of the tooling for aircraft manufacture, was destroyed.

Sheila Scott's Piper Aztec, Mythre, over the North Pole, by Paul Couper, 2008
“Sheila Scott over the Top—Piper Aztec,” by Paul Couper, Guild of Aviation Artists, 2008. 62 × 52 centimeters, oil/acrylic.

This painting is available from the Guild of Aviation Artists at:

http://www.gava.org.uk/index.php?option=com_phocagallery&searchterm=Paul%20Couper&view=category&id=12&Itemid=534&picsearch=simple

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 4622, 4623

² FAI Record File Number 14203

³ FAI Record File Numbers 4626, 4627

⁴ FAI Record File Numbers 4624, 4625

⁵ FAI Record File Numbers 4622, 4626, 14203

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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