Experimental Planes Collide at Fla. Airfield East of Orlando

March 3, 2008

An experimental plane that may have been having trouble landing struck another that was taxiing at an airfield March 1, setting both on fire and killing two people, authorities said. Two people were critically injured.

The plane trying to land crashed into another on the ground around 8:30 a.m. at Arthur Dunn Airpark in Titusville, said Scott Gaenicke, spokesman and division chief for Titusville Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

Both planes were single-engine and amateur-built, officials said. An Experimental Aircraft Association chapter was hosting a pancake breakfast at the airfield, east of Orlando and about 110 miles northeast of Tampa.

The plane on the ground appeared to be taxiing to a ramp area when the other plane slammed into it. Two people who were in the plane that had left the runway were killed, authorities said.

The other plane cartwheeled for about 100 yards before landing belly-up on a grass median at the airport. Bystanders helped two people who were in that plane, which also caught fire. They were flown to Orlando Regional Medical Center with severe burns.

One of the survivors is in “grave” condition, and the other is extremely critical, Gaenicke said.

They were flying in a single-engine aircraft that according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s online aircraft registry is registered to Christen Air Inc. in Wilmington, Del., Gaenicke said. A telephone listing for that company was not immediately found.

The other plane was a single-engine RV-8 aircraft registered to William E. Hess of Daytona Beach, FAA records show.

Both planes are considered experimental aircraft, Gaenicke said.

“They’re not like your off-the-shelf, already pre-manufactured (aircraft),” Gaenicke said. “These are home-built type aircraft that one would buy as a kit and put together.”

Larry Gilbert, a member of the Aircraft Association, said the plane that was landing appeared to lose control and was trying to take off again when it slammed into the other plane.

The plane that was hit exploded on impact, Gilbert said. He called 911 as chapter members rushed to help the other plane’s occupants.

The plane that was landing appeared to be a Velocity model airplane, he said – an experimental craft with large V-shaped wings, a propeller in the back and smaller wings on the nose.

It was difficult to determine the exact models of both planes, he said: “They were so totally destroyed.”

Investigators from the FAA arrived at the airport, which remains closed, to begin their investigation. National Transportation Safety Board officials were on their way.

The air park is an uncontrolled air field and doesn’t have a control tower, Gaenicke said.

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