Student injured in Park Rapids Plane Crash
All Air China contract flying has been suspended until further notice.
9/11/09 Section: News
Li Yang, an Air China student pilot, walked away from a "totaled" UND Cessna 172 aircraft that impacted the ground shortly after takeoff around 10 p.m. Saturday night, according to Jeff Voigt, owner of Park Rapids Aviation.
Yang's aircraft crashed approximately 100-150 feet off the end of the runway. He was treated for his injuries and later released from a Park Rapids hospital, according to a UND issued press release. He was flown back to Grand Forks and is reportedly doing well.
Dana Siewert, director of Aviation Safety said the aircraft had suffered "substantial damage" though he was not able to give any additional information.
Voigt stated that the landing gear on the front of the aircraft had been ripped out, the engine was still inside of the cowling but it too had been severed and twisted and much of the inside of the cockpit area had been crushed in.
"There's no question that the [aircraft] is totaled," Voigt said.
As for the pilot, Voigt commented, "There was also a lot of blood inside of the aircraft. Both the left and right door posts and the fuel selector had blood on them."
Yang was, however, able to walk away from the accident. In fact, he walked from the wreckage site back to the Park Rapids Aviation office, nearly a mile away in order to call the authorities to let them know what happened.
"I wasn't there, but I got a phone call from Lockheed Martin Flight Service because he was apparently late in closing his flight plan or something and they also reported an ELT (emergency locator transmitter) signal," Voigt said. "Then I got a call from the pilot himself."
When flying a cross-country flight, students are obligated to file a flight plan with Lockheed Martin Flight Service. The company tracks the progress of each aircraft in the air and will begin searching for that aircraft if it is more than 30 minutes past the scheduled arrival time. According to Voigt, local air traffic control also picked up on the ELT signal, which is designed to begin signaling a distress call in the event of a high impact crash.
Voigt said the pilot had suffered mostly facial cuts and bruises from the accident. "His face was all bloody," he said. "He must have hit his head on the dashboard or the windshield, which was also pretty damaged."
Voigt mentioned that Yang was "pretty shaken up" and that authorities had a hard time understanding him because "his English wasn't very good."
The Federal Aviation Administration conducted an on-site investigation Sunday morning and afternoon and released the aircraft to the university to be examined. Voigt said the National Transportation Safety Board, the organization that typically investigates aircraft accidents, would not be doing any on-site investigations but he was not sure if they would be involved later or not.
UND Aerospace has suspended all Air China flights until a the school can figure out what happened, according to Lead Flight Instructor Justin Phillips. "The concern is overall safety," he said. "With that group of students [the Air China group] their management is concerned about their safety as well, and, as a part of our procedures, we do anything we can to keep anything like this from happening again."
Phillips was unsure of when the Air China students would be allowed to fly again.
Voigt has been working at the airport for 10 years and he said this was by far the worst accident he's ever seen. He noted that another UND aircraft hit a deer on the runway several years ago, but that "it doesn't compare to this."