Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Aeronca 7BCM/CONV, N1639E: Incident July 20, 2016 at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport (KVVS), Connellsville, Dunbar Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania

An accident involving an unmanned, antique plane sent its owner to the hospital Wednesday morning when it began circling on the Tarmac at the Joseph A. Hardy/Connellsville Airport.

Authorities said John Warren, 72, of Monongahela was outside of his plane when the propeller knocked him to the ground twice before crashing into the hangar.

The man was flown to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, according to state police.

The 1946 Aeronca Champion has no electric starter, according to airport Manager Bud Neckeraurer. Instead, the plane is started by turning the propeller by hand. When Warren did this, the plane began making uncontrolled circles outside the hangar.

Neckeraurer said Warren attempted to get in the plane, but was unable and began chasing it.

"I went out to chase it too, but I didn't know what to do but yell at John to stay away," he said.

He said the propeller hit Warren and knocked him to the ground -- hard. Neckeraurer said he was surprised to see him get up and start chasing the plane again. It knocked him to the ground a second time, and Warren struggled to get to his feet. Neckeraurer and other witnesses rushed to help him.

"To me, it seemed about like all day," Neckeraurer said, describing the incident. "But it was probably less than a minute."

Neckeraurer said that while he has not seen this type of accident before at the Connellsville airport, he said they are not uncommon.

"From now on, we will tie the tail down," he said. "We'll do things differently now."

He said Warren was only making a quick stop at the airport for fuel with plans to spend the afternoon meandering around the skies.

"He said to me, 'It's a great day to fly," he said.

Neckeraurer said it appeared that Warren suffered head injuries and seemed to be going into shock before regaining coherence. He said Warren seemed to be most concerned about his antique aircraft.

"It's like a piece of jewelry," Neckeraurer said. "It's absolutely beautiful."

He said Warren is a member of the Rostraver Township chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Neckeraurer said the pilot has multiple airplanes, and operates his aircraft safely.

He said he is confident Warren will find a way to repair his plane when he recovers.

"John will fix it," he said. "It might take years, but that's what these experimental aircraft guys do."

The damage to the hangar will require replacing a door, he said. A panel on a truck was damaged by the plane's tail.

Neckeraurer thanked the emergency personnel, saying the response was superb.

State police, Fayette EMS, Dunbar fire department and Fayette County Emergency Management Agency responded to the scene.


CONNELLSVILLE, Pa. —A pilot was injured when his antique plane began spinning out of control Wednesday morning at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport.

A pilot is injured while working on his antique plane at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport and is flown to a Pittsburgh hospital.

The man was preparing to take off in the plane when he got out to hand turn the propeller, but did not put the throttle in idle. 

"The engine started at a much higher RPM than it should have, with enough power to override the brakes," said Gary Sobek, who was preparing to fly out on his own plane.

Video: Runaway plane: pilot injured at Connellsville airport

The plane, said to be a 1946 Aeronca Champ, began to move when the propeller started spinning, moving the plane from one end of the airport's apron to the other.

"We didn't know what to do," said Bud Neckerbauer, the airport's manager. "You have an airplane running around out there wild. We were chasing it, then it was chasing us."

The pilot, identified as John Warren, 72, of Monongahela, was struck by the tail section of the plane when he tried to stop it and was knocked into the air and fell, striking his head on the ground.

The plane then smashed into a truck parked nearby and crashed through a hangar door before stopping.

Warren was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Story and video:

A pilot trying to stop a runaway classic aircraft was hurt when he was struck by the plane Wednesday morning at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport.

Airport manager John Neckerauer identified the pilot as John Warren of Monongahela, an officer with the Experimental Aircraft Association of Pittsburgh.

Neckerauer said Warren was planning to take up his Aeronca Champ, a 1946 fixed-wing, single engine two-seater.

“It's an old aircraft without a starter. You hand-prop it (pull the propeller by hand),” Neckerauer explained.

When Warren spun the propeller, the plane took off and struck an airport hangar, he said.

“He was trying to catch it. The tail section of the aircraft flipped him onto the asphalt. He hit his head hard,” Neckerauer said.

Warren was transported from the scene by ambulance and then flown to a Pittsburgh hospital, Neckerauer said.

The accident was reported about 10 a.m.

No further information on Warren's condition was immediately available. 


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