Small Plane Hits Jetliner On Taxiway; One Dead
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A twin-engine aircraft slammed into a Pan Am jet on a fog-shrouded airport taxiway today and burst into flames, killing the lone occupant of the small plane, officials said.
The pilot of the small plane, an Eastern Airlines captain who was returning to duty, screamed ″Oh my God 3/8 Oh my God 3/8″ as he spotted and then tried to evade the jetliner, according to an airport worker. The small plane exploded after skidding beneath the jet, and came to rest about 30 yards away.
Aviation officials said four of the 23 people on the Pan American World Airways plane received bumps and bruises as they evacuated by emergency chute.
Paul MacAlester of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority said Flight 301 to Miami was taxiing for a takeoff from Tampa International Airport at 7:05 a.m. when the twin-engine Piper Aztec crashed into it.
The small craft apparently was trying to land on the runway, he said, ″but instead of being lined up with the runway, it appears the small aircraft was lined up with the taxiway.″
The commercial craft’s occupants were fortunate that the small plane struck just below and to the right of the nose, then slid underneath and beyond the jet before exploding, said MacAlester.
Pan Am spokesman Merle Richman said the jetliner pilot, Capt. Edwin Lunsford of New Smyrna Beach, saw the small plane coming and managed to avoid a nose-to-nose collision.
″Rather, the Piper hit a glancing blow just below the captain’s window,″ he said.
Pan Am passenger Frank Kuliski of Key West, who said he is a private pilot, said the jet’s pilot slammed on the brakes and he heard a boom.
″I saw a big ball of fire on the right and then the left. I dashed out to the rear,″ he said. Flight attendants then opened the rear door and pushed a chute out so the 17 passengers and six crew members could evacuate.
″Right behind us, about 30 yards beyond us, we could see this twin-engine plane just completely engulfed in flames,″ Kuliski said.
″That plane was done. It was a mess,″ added passenger Al Demeter.
The dead pilot was identified as William S. Bain, 56, who was flying in from his home in Fort Myers to command Eastern Flight 164 from Tampa to Newark, N.J. Eastern spokesman Glenn Parsons said Bain, a captain, was a senior DC-9 pilot.
Tim Maslonek, 22, of Aircraft Service, said he and 10 other workers were listening to tower transmissions as they rode in a bus 300 to 400 yards from the crash site.
″I heard the tower say Pan Am had clearance to take off. At the same time, there was a prop plane coming in that did not have clearance to land,″ Maslonek said, adding that it wasn’t clear why the small plane was denied permission to land.
″I heard him screaming over the microphone,″ Maslonek said. ″It was so scary. He was just so terrified. He screamed: ’Oh my God 3/8 Oh my God 3/8.‴
He said the small plane tried unsuccessfully to avoid the Pan Am jet.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman John Whiteside said visibility at the airport was limited to one-sixteenth of a mile in heavy fog.
The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team of investigators to Tampa.
The collision occurred amid increased concern among aviation safety experts about both a higher incidence of on-the-ground accidents at the nation’s airports and the dangers posed by the mingling of private and large commercial planes.
The NTSB earlier this year concluded a special study of ground airport accidents prompted by several incidents, including one in which two jetliners almost collided at Minneapolis.
The board found that the frequency of such incidents has been increasing and urged the FAA to take new measures to help air traffic controllers better coordinate the movement of planes at airports.
The concern about private planes interferring with large commercial jets came into focus Aug. 31, when a single-engine Piper PA-28 and an Aeromexico Airlines DC-9 collided over Cerritos, Calif., killing 82 people.
The jetliner was making a routine approach to the Los Angeles International Airport. Investigators have determined that the private plane had improperly encroached into restricted airspace.
The worst plane disaster in history was the collision of two jets on the ground during a fog. A total of 582 people died March 27, 1977, when Boeing 747s operated by Pan Am and KLM collided at the airport on Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands.
On Dec. 7, 1983, an Iberia Boeing 727 and an Aviaco DC-9 collided on a fog- shrouded runway at Madrid’s Barajas Airport, killing all 42 aboard the DC-9 and 52 aboard the 727. Aviaco is Spain’s internal domestic airline.