Wednesday, June 2, 2010
A light plane on an emergency landing approach to Gillespie Field clipped trolley power lines and crashed onto a street at the western edge of the East County airport today, coming to rest upside-down with the pilot trapped inside and the severed live electrical wires draped across it.
The man flying the Czech Aircraft Works Sportcruiser had just taken off from the airfield, en route to Ramona, when he radioed the tower about 10:30 a.m., saying he had to return due to some sort of problem with the plane's cockpit canopy, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Moments later, the aircraft and about 150 feet of power lines came down across Cuyamaca Street, near Weld Boulevard, setting a patch of roadside grass ablaze.
Based on witness accounts, the rounded, transparent cockpit cover on the airplane may have come off shortly before the crash, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Emergency crews from several agencies were able to quickly extinguish the small fire but had to wait for transit officials to cut off the power to the downed transmission cables before starting the task of freeing the pilot and sole occupant of the plane, according to Monica Zech, a spokeswoman for the El Cajon Fire Department.
Firefighters got the man out of the single-engine aircraft shortly after 11 a.m. and took him to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego. The severity of his injuries was not immediately clear, but he was conscious and able to speak during the rescue.
No one on the ground was hurt, Gregor said.
Trolley service between Santee and El Cajon will be suspended for at least several days due to the equipment damage caused by the accident, according to Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer of Metropolitan Transit
MTS will provide bus service between the two cities until it can reopen its Gillespie Field and Santee Town Center trolley stations, Jablonski said.
The pilot's name was not released. According to FAA records, the airplane is registered to a Billy Browning of Lakeside.