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NTSB: Pilot Error Led To Fatal Mid-Air Plane Crash Over San Pablo Bay

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Coast Guard boats search for a missing pilot after two planes collided over San Pablo Bay Sunday. (CBS)

Coast Guard boats search for a missing pilot after two planes collided over San Pablo Bay Sunday. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A fatal mid-air collision over San Pablo Bay occurred when the pilot of a small airplane misjudged the space between his plane and another small aircraft, according to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report.

The first pilot, accompanied by his wife, was piloting a Korean War-era Hawker Fury TMK 20 and the second pilot, identified as 33-year-old David Plumb, was flying a Cessna on the afternoon of April 27.

The two pilots were acquaintances who were flying planes owned by Sanders Aircraft, Inc. Sometime around 3:30 p.m. both headed toward Eagle’s Nest Airport in Ione after participating in an airport open house in Half Moon Bay, according to the NTSB report.

The Hawker pilot, whose name has not been released, stopped along with another small plane to take photos near the Golden Gate Bridge before proceeding to Ione.

Around 4 p.m., he was flying over San Pablo Bay near Port Richmond when he spotted the Cessna and radioed Plumb to let him know he was traveling toward him but would pass low and to the left, the report says.

The Cessna pilot responded over the radio that it should make for a good picture, but the Hawker pilot said it probably wouldn’t since he was traveling much faster than the Cessna.

The Hawker pilot continued heading toward the Cessna with what he thought was an adequate gap but as he passed the other plane “he felt and heard a thump and he realized that the two airplanes had collided,” the report reads.

The Hawker pilot then saw the Cessna inverted and going down into San Pablo Bay.He told NTSB investigators that after the crash he focused on flying the plane and checked to ensure he could still control the aircraft.

Wanting to avoid populated areas, the pilot continued toward his home airport and while en route contacted Sanders Aircraft personnel, who sent out another plane to meet the Hawker and evaluate its condition, according to the NTSB.

The pilot was later able to land at the airport in Ione without incident. Both he and his wife were unharmed.

Blue paint streaks from Cessna could be seen on the Hawker, which had a damaged rudder and several missing parts, according to the NTSB.

The wreckage of the Cessna and the Plumb’s remains were located in the San Pablo Bay three days after the crash.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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