Poor training cited in Wisconsin skydivers midair collision

The National Transportation Safety Board has completed its investigation into the November 2013 mid-air collision of two airplanes full of skydivers over Superior, Wis.

It cited the lack of guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration on how pilots should fly formation flights with skydivers. Consequently, the NTSB said, the owner of the skydiving company “did not provide its pilots skydiving formation flight training, and it did not keep records of pilot training nor was it required to do so by the FAA.”

“If both pilots had received adequate skydiving formation flight training, they might have had a consensus about how the formation flight should have been flown,” it said in its report. “If the trail airplane pilot had received such training, he might have been more vigilant about maintaining adequate lateral and vertical separation from the lead airplane during the flight.”

The pilots of each airplane said they discussed how the flight would be flown, but in interviews with the NTSB, all three pilots described different expectations for the separation between each airplane.

The 182 pilot described the trail position as 20 to 30 ft aft of the lead airplane on a 45-degree bearing and lower than the lead airplane. The 185 pilot described the trail positon as one to two airplane lengths (about 26 to 52 ft) aft and left of the lead airplane and at the same altitude as the lead airplane. The chief pilot described the trail position as three airplane lengths (about 78 ft) aft and left of the lead airplane and slightly lower than the lead airplane. Even though none of the pilots stated that the trail airplane should be flown higher than the lead airplane, a video taken of the flight showed that the trail airplane pilot flew the trail airplane higher than the lead airplane until impact.

Everyone survived the crash. The skydivers jumped out, then sold GoPro footage of the incident for $100,000 to NBC News.