Piper PA-42 Cheyenne, Prescott, Ariz., Oct. 18, 2006–The NTSB determined that, during air-to-air photography, the Cheyenne photo ship came too close to the subject MiG’s jet core exhaust, causing the separation of the Cheyenne’s T-tail upper section vertical stabilizer. The Cheyenne, registered to Flying Moose, crashed and the ATP-rated pilot and four passengers were killed. The pilots of the two airplanes had discussed the aerial photography flight before takeoff but did not establish a minimum separation distance.
After takeoff, the MiG pilot had a problem with the landing gear and the Cheyenne pilot said he would join up and take a look at the gear. The MiG pilot flew at 9,000 feet msl in a 30-degree right-hand turn at 200 knots (about 90 percent power set) with approach flaps selected (approximately 25 degrees). The MiG pilot saw the Cheyenne meet up with him at his 5 o’clock position about 300 to 400 feet behind him and about the same altitude. In this position, the Cheyenne was in the direct path of the high-velocity jet core exhaust from the MiG. The MiG pilot lost sight of the Cheyenne, then noted smoke from the crash rising from the desert and alerted ATC.
The Cheyenne’s main wreckage (which included the entire aircraft with the exception of the upper half of the vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer and elevator) was at an elevation of 4,366 feet msl. The T-tail section of the airplane came to rest about half a mile south of the main wreckage.
Investigators noted no evidence of contact on the MiG.