Saturday, March 30, 2013

Kolb Firefly: Accident occurred March 30, 2013 at Smoketown Airport (S37), Pennsylvania


One man was killed when his ultralight plane crashed just after takeoff Saturday at Smoketown Airport in East Lampeter Township. 

Michael Blank, 30, was pronounced dead at the scene by deputy coroners Eric Bieber and Michelle Darlington, Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said.

The coroner said the cause of death was due to multiple traumatic injuries and had been ruled accidental. He said an autopsy was not planned.

Blank lived in the county, but Diamantoni said he did not know exactly where.

A witness said Blank took off in his one-seat Kolb Firefly ultralight around 5:45 p.m.

"He looked like he climbed out steep," said the witness — a pilot who was at the airfield Saturday and who asked not to be identified.

Climbing at too steep an incline can cause the wing to stall, the pilot added.

"I heard him throttle back, like he was going to make a left turn and leave the airspace. I turned my back to watch another plane come in … and I heard the crash. I saw the black smoke and ran inside and told them to call 911."

The witness, who said he'd been in the air earlier in the day, said the crash was sobering. "You always know anything can happen but … it's bad," he said. "(It's) obviously something you never want to see."

Officials said Blank's plane crashed into an abandoned mobile home at the end of the runway on the east side of Mount Sidney Road.

Marlin Horst, owner of the airport, said Blank was an experienced pilot who had logged more than 300 hours of certified flying time.

Horst said too it appeared the crash was the result of a stall/spin, where the plane stops and corkscrews down.

"He was a skilled pilot who made a mistake," said Horst, who was visibly upset as he watched emergency crews work among the wreckage.

Witnesses said the Kolb Firefly is a home-built aircraft sold as a kit. It wasn't known if Blank constructed the plane himself or bought it already put together.

East Lampeter Township police said late Saturday that an official from the Federal Aviation Administration was at the scene and did not require the plane to be secured for further investigation.

Authorities said the aircraft was released to Smoketown Airport.

Ultralight planes are not required to be registered with the FAA.

As the evening wore on Saturday, dozens of onlookers arrived in vehicles and on foot at the airfield just off Route 340.

Many stood and watched as crews picked at the still-smoldering wreckage.

Blank's relatives, members of the Amish community, came to the crash site and watched somberly as officials recovered his body around 7:40 p.m.

According to newspaper records, the last fatal plane crash in Lancaster County happened in August 2002 when a Mount Joy Township family was killed shortly after their single-engine plane took off from Donegal Springs Airport.

The plane's pilot, Gerald Shenk, 40, his wife Julia, 39, and their two children — Ethan, 5, and Ryan, 3 — died when the plane crashed into a cornfield about a half-mile from the runway.

The family was going for short trip around the airport when the aircraft went down. Officials said it appeared the plane's engine shut off. Shenk had 20 years of experience as a pilot.


SMOKETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) - The Lancaster County Coroner is on the scene of a small plane crash at Smoketown Airport in East Lampeter Township.  

Emergency dispatchers said the incident occurred at around 5:45 p.m. Saturday. According to a press release from Lancaster County-Wide Communications, one person has been killed.

So far, there is no word on other injuries.

The airport has had two previous non-fatal crashes over the last two years, most recently in May of 2012.

UPDATE:  Officials on scene have confirmed that one person is dead following an ultralight airplane crash in East Lampeter Township. The cause of the crash is unknown at this point. 

Emergency crews are at the scene of a plane crash at Smoketown Airport in East Lampeter Township near Old Philadelphia Pike and Airport Drive. It happened around 5:45pm, the Lancaster County Coroner has been called to the scene, but is unable to confirm any fatalities at this time. 

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