Feds Investigating Tragic and Bizarre Houston Midair That Killed Two

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Screen Shot 2021 12 23 at 12.15.24 PM 640x364 - Feds Investigating Tragic and Bizarre Houston Midair That Killed Two
Photo courtesy of KPRC 2 Houston

The FAA and NTSB are investigating a midair collision outside of Houston, Texas, that claimed the lives of the pilot of a Cessna Caravan 208 and the pilot of what appears to be a paraglider. They were the only two aboard the two craft.

The collision, according to preliminary and flight tracking information, happened at 4,800 feet. Video of the two crash sites shows the Caravan, operated by charter company Martinaire and headed to Victoria, in South Texas, utterly destroyed in the crash, certainly the majority of the damage due to hitting the ground at high speed and out of control. A photo published by a local news outlet showed half of the Caravan’s horizontal tail by itself in a field, though it’s not clear how far away from the main wreckage it is.

Footage of the site of the paraglider crash show a conventional-looking parachute inflated by the local winds and a longer sail with its cords stretched out on the scrubby pastureland, with what appears to be the cocoon in which paragliders nestle themselves (for aerodynamics and comfort) between the two. A local news station reported that the body of the paraglider was found some distance from the crash site.

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It looks to us as though the conventional-looking chute is a personally worn chute that paragliders sometimes wear as an emergency backstop should their main canopy suffer a failure or a catastrophic deflation.

The question several people have asked us is, how could a paraglider take down a Cessna Caravan? Probably in one of a few different ways, but it can certainly happen and has. There are, in fact, numerous examples of planes crashing after hitting parachutists. In one, a Skylane in New York State hit a parachutist. The collision broke the Skylane’s tail (and the parachutist’s leg). The Skylane crashed, with fatal results for all aboard, but the parachutist continued the descent and survived the collision.

In this case, the inflated personal emergency chute, if that is indeed what it is—it’s the best explanation at this point—raises the question of whether the paraglider survived the initial midair and was able to activate the backup chute, only to perish later, or if the chute was activated by the collision, in which the paraglider perished.

It will be a complicated investigation. We’ll update the story as details emerge. For more photos, check out KPRC’s coverage of the tragic midair.

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Categories: How to Become a Pilot

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