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Accident description
Last updated: 21 October 2017
Status:Final
Date:Friday 18 September 1998
Time:14:28
Type:Silhouette image of generic NOMA model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
GAF Nomad N.22S Searchmaster L
Operator:US Customs Service
Registration: N6302W
C/n / msn: 159
First flight: 1983
Total airframe hrs:3083
Engines: 2 Allison 250-B17E
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 0
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Airplane damage: Minor
Airplane fate: Repaired
Location:260 km (162.5 mls) SW of Puerto Rico (   Puerto Rico)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Ferry/positioning
Departure airport:Aguadilla-Borinquen Airport (BQN/TJBQ), Puerto Rico
Destination airport:Curaçao-Hato International Airport (CUR/TNCC), Curaçao
Narrative:
Two GAF N.22S Nomad airplanes of the U.S. Customs Service, N6305U and N6302W, collided in midair during cruise flight over the Caribbean Sea, about 162 miles southwest of Puerto Rico.
N6305U crashed, fatally injuring one of the two pilots. N6302W sustained minor damage, and the pilots were not injured.
Approximately 10:00 on the day of the accident, the crew members of N6302W and N6305U were notified that a hurricane evacuation plan was in effect for Borinquen, Puerto Rico. Both airplanes needed to be evacuated to Curacao, in the Caribbean Sea, due to the approaching hurricane. Prior to departure, the crewmembers of both airplanes were directed to fly as a flight of two. N6302W was directed to be the lead airplane with responsibility for both navigation and radio communications. Due to the fact that neither of the copilots had received any previous ground or flight training in the N22S, the flights were to be used as initial training, as both captains were instructor pilots.

Departure
Both airplanes departed Borinquen approximately 13:30. The captain of the lead airplane stated that approximately 10 minutes after departure, both airplanes were flying at an altitude of 6,500 feet above msl on a course of 210 degrees magnetic heading at 140 knots. The copilot of the lead airplane activated the autopilot with the heading and altitude selected. According to the captain of the lead airplane, the captain aboard N6305U contacted him over the radio and advised him that he was "on a loose trail" at their seven o'clock position and slightly lower.
Approximately 14:25, while 120 miles south of Borinquen, the captain of the trailing airplane, N6305U, advised the captain of the lead airplane that he was going to "come in closer in order to take a photograph of [N6302W]," to which the captain of N6302W acknowledged. The captain of the lead airplane, seated on right, then moved forward in his seat and observed the trailing airplane at his eight o'clock position and slightly lower. At that time, the captain of the lead airplane considered both airplanes to be at a "safe distance" from each other, and moved back in his seat.

Collision
After taking several photographs, the copilot asked the captain a question regarding the airplane's instrumentation. After several minutes, he looked outside the cockpit to the right and realized that their airplane was seconds from colliding with the lead airplane. The trailing airplane was slightly ahead of N6302W and "closing to the right at a fast pace." He then heard a loud bang.
The captain aboard the lead airplane, felt an impact on the lower front section and called the captain of the trailing airplane over the radio and stated, "Are you crazy? You hit us." Seconds later, he observed the trailing airplane in a nose down position turning toward the northwest.
At 14:27:30, the lead airplane advised San Juan ARTCC, "Ah mayday mayday mayday zero two whiskey oh our second unit had made contact with us going into the wa..." At 14:33, the pilot advised ARTCC that the trailing airplane was attempting to turn north and was having difficulty controlling the airplane. He requested permission to follow his company airplane, which was approved.
After the collision, the captain performed a manual test of N6302W's flight controls, and stated that no operational discrepancies were noted. After verifying that the airplane was still controllable, the crew initiated a search for the trailing airplane. They attempted to contact the crew of N6305U over the radio, and the captain of the trailing airplane responded that they were flying at an altitude of 1,900 feet msl at 90 knots on a west/northwest heading.

Emergency landing
The flight crew of the lead airplane was able to establish visual contact with the trailing airplane. The captain of N6302W provided bearing and range information in an attempt to direct N6305U to the southwest corner of Puerto Rico. Approximately 50 nautical miles southwest of Borinquen, the captain of the trailing airplane advised that he had visual contact with Mona Island, and that he was going to attempt an emergency landing on the island's airstrip.
However, according to the copilot aboard the trailing airplane, the airplane was nearly aligned with the dirt runway when the rate of descent increased and the airplane began to oscillate uncontrollably. Concerned that the airplane might explode on impact with the ground, the captain considered landing on the shoreline, then made the decision to ditch the airplane in the water approximately one hundred yards south of Mona Island. According to the copilot, they "lost control" of the airplane while approaching the water. Upon impact, the airplane nosed over and submerged under 8 to 10 feet of water. The copilot extricated himself from the airplane; the captain did not.
The captain of the lead airplane was able to maintain control of the airplane and returned to Borinquen. He circled above the airport for approximately 40 minutes and performed the normal and emergency checklists. He was able to extend all three of the landing gear to the down and locked position. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter performed an aerial check of N6302W and confirmed that there was minor damage to the airplane's nose and the surface radar housing. N6302W landed on runway 8 without further incident.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The failure of the pilot-in-command of N6305U to maintain physical clearance from the other aircraft (N6302W). Contributing factors were the inadequate visual lookout of all four pilots involved. "

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 2 years and 4 months
Accident number: ATL98GA127A
Download report: Final report

Classification:
Mid air collision
Forced landing on runway

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Map
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Aguadilla-Borinquen Airport to Curaçao-Hato International Airport as the crow flies is 724 km (452 miles).

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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