The pilot killed in a mid-air collision above Hammonton Municipal Airport last year was flying there to visit the father of a pilot critically injured in another plane crash in Egg Harbor Township weeks beforehand, a report released this week says.
On Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board published a thorough factual account of the fatal Aug. 20, 2011, crash that killed David Mitchell, 71, of Voorhees, and critically injured Kirill Barsukov, 33, of Jersey City.
The report did not assign fault or provide the probable cause of the accident. That is expected soon, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said Friday.
The report says that Mitchell told a manager at the Flying W Airport in Lumberton, Burlington County, that he was planning to visit Joseph Flood, the father of Jason Flood, who was critically injured in a banner plane crash on Aug. 2, 2011, in Egg Harbor Township.
Mitchell later took off from South Jersey Regional Airport, which is about two miles away, on the border of Lumberton and Medford Township, to fly to Hammonton.By
Flood later told investigators that he was not actually at the Hammonton airport that day because he was visiting his son in the hospital. Flood also said that Mitchell would visit him there about once a month.
Mitchell's nephew, who was not in the plane but sometimes flew with Mitchell, said that when the collision occurred about 1:15 p.m. he was likely surveying the airfield below, and possibly looking for Flood's car, the report states.
Barsukov was performing stunts near the airfield in an aerobatic box, which is a designated area for planes to practice aerobatics. Both Mitchell's nephew and Flood told investigators that Mitchell had flown into the airport several times when the box was active and would have been well aware of it.
Flood and Airport Administrator Rock Colasurdo could not be reached for comment on Friday. The aerobatics box was closed following the collision.
Barsukov was performing aerobatics for about 20 minutes before the crash occurred. Right before the collision he made a steep climb, then entered a steep dive called a hammerhead stall, the sixth maneuver in a sequence, witnesses on the ground told investigators.
Mitchell's plane came really fast "out of nowhere," a witness said, and the planes collided without either apparently altering course.
An observer and coach was on the ground spotting for Barsukov that day. Shortly before the crash, the observer spotted a nearby Cessna plane and radioed to Barsukov, but due to a sun glare he did not see Mitchell's Lancair plane.
The observer did not see the planes collide. He told investigators that he saw Barsukov's Yak plane split into two pieces and begin falling, while he then noticed the Lancair plane flying level before rolling left and losing a piece of its left wing.
The observer later said that there was no pilot transmission prior to the accident.
The Lancair descended at an increasing angle toward the center of the aerobatic box. The observer shouted to Barsukov to jump, and he did so at approximately 1,600 to 1,700 feet above the ground. Mitchell did not eject.
The Cessna pilot, who was not named in the report, apparently did not see the crash. The pilot radioed to the airport announcing his approach to land, said no one responded, and then noticed Barsukov's plane when he approached the airport.
The pilot said he turned to approach the runway from a different direction to avoid Barsukov. As he turned, he suddenly noticed the plane again, it came "very close," overflew him, and then the pilot saw Barsukov eject. The Cessna pilot then landed safely.
Barsukov landed in a forested area near a farm and walked out to a nearby road to call for help. A police officer briefly interviewed him at the scene and said he stated the control stick "suddenly went loose" and the airplane began to tumble.
Barsukov was taken to Cooper University Hospital in Camden with critical injuries. Before his discharge weeks later, Federal Aviation Administration personnel visited him in the hospital and found that he did not even realize a collision occurred until he was on the ground.
He could not talk because of his injuries, so Barsukov used a whiteboard to write that he thought his plane was hit while climbing. He also told investigators that prior to the maneuver he performed a clearing turn, which pilots use to scan the area for other planes.
It was a clear day when the accident occurred. Visibility was at 10 miles and the only clouds were several thousand feet above where the planes were flying, the report states. The collision happened around 3,000 feet in the air.
Mitchell had a private pilot certificate, and on his latest FAA third class medical application he he indicated he had 4,280 hours of flight time. Barsukov also had a private pilot certificate, and on his first class medical certificate issued the previous April he reported 610 total flight hours, the report says.
The Atlantic County Department of Public Safety performed no autopsy on Mitchell. A toxicology test found "no preexisting anomalies."