The National Transportation Safety Board has released its factual report on the May 2019 midair collision over Clay County that killed a veteran pilot.
On May 29, 2019, Bob Woolley, 74, and 77-year-old Dave Dollarhide took off in their custom-made planes so Dollarhide could check his airspeed indicator, according to Dollarhide. When everything appeared normal, the two longtime friends decided to engage in a “tail chase,” a maneuver they did often, the report shows. The report said the planes went through various turns, climbs and dives, with the pilots alternating in the lead. The report said Dollarhide eventually called off the tail chase and began to descend and then saw Woolley coming right at him, 50 feet away. Before either pilot could react, the two planes collided in midair, according to the report.
Aviation attorney Ed Booth said they were flying in a “see-and-avoid” process.
“There are some limitations to that concept, and this accident, tragically, points out one of those limitations,” Booth said. “It’s challenging to spot another aircraft, but the most difficult configuration is detecting an aircraft coming at you at your altitude head-on because there is no perception of relative motion. If you knew what you were looking at all, you would see as a dot that suddenly blossoms into a full-size airplane too late for you to do anything to avoid it, and that appears to be what happened here.”
The report stated Woolley’s red plane broke in two, and he was killed. Dollarhide managed to land his yellow plane in a field near the Clay County Fairgrounds and was treated for his injuries at a hospital.
The report said Woolley had over-the-counter allergy medicine in his system, which the report noted can cause drowsiness. The report does not say that is why the collision happened.
And, again, this was the factual report by the NTSB -- not its final report.
“This is what is known as the factual report. A probable cause determination will follow probably in a couple of weeks,” Booth said.
According to Booth, there are about 30 midair collisions in the United States each year.