July 27, 2013: west of Milwaukee Airport [CEN13FA438]
At 2:38PM, a Piper Arrow (PA28, single prop) departed Racine [KRAC] and proceeded north along the west shore of Lake Michigan. The PA28 requested an overflight through the Milwaukee airspace. ATC provided VFR flight following services and turned the PA28 to the east to pass clear of an MD80 on final to land Runway 25L at Milwaukee [KMKE]. The PA28 reported the MD80 in sight, and ATC said: “…thank you, just pass behind that traffic, and then you can proceed northbound as requested.” The controller did not issue a Wake Turbulence advisory. The PA28 passed 1.4-miles behind the MD80, 39-seconds after the MD80 had passed at 1,800′. Radar data indicates the PA28 was 200′ below the MD80 flightpath, at 1,600′. The PA28’s left wing and portions of the right wing separated in flight. Two fatalities.
Notes & Links:
The Weather: wind from 300 degrees at 13 knots, 10 miles visibility, scattered clouds at 3,400 feet, an overcast cloud layer at 4,000 feet.
The PA28 had departed Racine 7-minutes before the accident.
The pilot was 79-yrs-old and had nearly 33,000 hours of logged flying time. His passenger was a 31-yr-old male pilot with 200 hours logged.
The flight was northbound near the shore of Lake Michigan. A Delta MD80 was inbound from the northwest, being maneuvered from a right downwind to a final for landing on Runway 25L at KMKE. ATC was issuing VFR flight following services to the PA28, all well below the clouds, at approximately 1,500′.
ATC instructed the PA28 to turn east to a heading 090, and pointed out the MD80 traffic. Once the PA28 reported the traffic in sight, ATC said: “…thank you, just pass behind that traffic, and then you can proceed northbound as requested.” The controller did not issue a Wake Turbulence advisory.
The PA28 passed northbound roughly 1.4-miles behind the westbound MD80. The flightpaths crossed with the PA28 at approximately 1,600′, just below where the MD80 had passed 39-seconds earlier at 1,800′. The PA28 experienced an in-flight breakup with the radar showing multiple primary targets. An accident analysis determined that the left wing separated, part of the right wing separated, and the fuselage was broken into three sections. NTSB cited the accident as an encounter with wake turbulence. NTSB also cited ATC’s failure to issue a Wake Turbulence Advisory as contributory.