May 06, 2001

Chicago Sun-Times

Feds blame controller, Collins for plane crash

May 6, 2001


WGN radio personality Bob Collins was largely responsible for the midair collision that claimed his life and the lives of two others last year, a federal report concludes.

An air traffic controller guiding the two airplanes that collided in north suburban Zion also was cited in the National Transportation Safety Board's final ruling, released Friday.

Student pilot Sharon Hock--originally singled out by some media outlets as the likely cause of the tragedy--was not mentioned as a factor in the Feb. 8, 2000, accident. She died along with Collins and his passenger, Herman Luscher.

"I do feel like she's been vindicated, but it doesn't change anything," Hock's father, Edward Hock, said. "I'm still in a lot of pain about the whole thing."

The probable cause of the accident was Collins' "failure to maintain clearance from the other airplane," said the NTSB report, which is in line with a previous federal report outlining the facts of the accident.

"Factors relating to the accident were the pilot's [Collins'] poor visual lookout, and the . . . local controller's failure to provide effective sequencing," the final report said.

The crash occurred as Collins and Hock were flying into Waukegan Regional Airport. Collins, flying a Zlin 242L low-wing plane, was approaching from the northeast. Hock, piloting a high-wing Cessna 172P, was practicing takeoffs and landings, flying in a pattern she had completed several times that day.

Collins twice misreported his position as he approached Runway 23, being off about a mile each time, the federal report says. The second time he did so influenced how quickly the controller, Greg Fowler, told Hock to make a turn that placed her in Collins' path.

About four minutes before impact, Collins said he was "about a mile or two" off Lake Michigan, but radar showed him 2.7 miles from shore. Two minutes, 19 seconds before impact, he said he was "just crossing the shoreline" when really he was 0.8 miles away.

In an interview with the NTSB, Fowler said he told Hock to turn "based on his estimate of the elapsed time before losing sight of [her plane], and the pilot's verbal report that he had crossed the shoreline."

[Chicago ATC News]