In Arizona on Friday, two planes collided in midair during a practice formation flight, with one of them, a Ryan Navion, landing safely despite being nearly cut in half. The other plane, a Yak-52, made it back to the runway at Falcon Field, and both occupants survived with minor injuries.
Photos of the bare metal Navion have been circulating online, and its ability to make it back to the airport despite the grave damage to it has spurred an online love fest for the plane, which was manufactured starting in 1948 and continued off and on until the early 1960s, with more than 2,500 of the planes being produced over that time frame. It was introduced after World War II by North American Aviation, whose P-51 Mustang is one of the most famous planes of all time. Originally branded as an everyman’s P-51, the four-seat Navion sold well initially, though the post-war boom soon turned to bust, and the company changed hands in 1947 with Ryan taking over the rights.
According to reports, the two planes were part of a three-aircraft formation flight when the Yak and the Navion collided in flight.
The mishap evokes memory of a similar midair that took place between two Navions in Alabama in 2018. In that case, two Navions, one a North American model and the other a Ryan-built plane, collided while part of a four-ship formation. In that collision, both planes were able to land with no injuries. The cause of the collision, according to the NTSB’s report, could not have been more prosaic. It was, according to investigators, “The other pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from another airplane in the formation flight due to sun glare.”