Plane crashes just minutes after takeoff from Visalia Municipal Airport
Pilot survives nosedive
BY ERIC WOOMER • firstname.lastname@example.org • September 22, 2010
A pilot is lucky to be alive after a performance aircraft crashed at Visalia Municipal Airport Tuesday just minutes after takeoff.
Sheldon Williams was taking his Mooney M20C airplane on a 9:40 a.m. test flight when he encountered mechanical problems, Visalia Fire Department officials said.
Southbound and less than 200 feet in the air, he turned the plane around and headed for the runway.
When the engine failed the M20C went into a glide, officials said.
The landing gear buckled on impact at the south end of the runway, causing the plane to slide on its nose, officials said.
The plane slid about 200 feet, hitting a directional sign and runway light before coming to a rest in an area of dry grass.
“He walked away,” Visalia Fire Battalion Chief Danny Wristen said. “It could have been very bad, but he managed to get out on his own, with damage only to the plane.”
Williams uses the airport frequently, airport Manager Mario Cifuentez said. He did a “great job” handling the plane during Tuesday’s incident, Cifuentez said.
“No one knows how they would handle such a situation,” he said.
The plane sustained damage to the propeller, wings and belly.
It could not be moved until photos were sent to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The airport was closed for more than an hour as Visalia fire and police officials investigated.
Williams was issued a Federal Aviation Administration certificate for the single-engine plane in May 2004, according to the FAA owners registry. The plane is valued at roughly $60,000, according to several Internet aircraft trading companies.
Williams declined to comment.
“I don’t want to talk to anyone except the FAA and NTSB,” he said.
Mooney pilots are offered a training course when they purchase the aircraft. The FAA-approved course is performed at the Mooney facility in Texas.
It is unknown whether Williams took part in training specifically for his 1965 Mooney aircraft.
Fastest of its kind
Mooney planes are considered the fastest single-engine, retractable aircraft in production, according to the Mooney website.
The M20C’s top speed is 190 mph, with a maximum altitude of about 17,000 feet.
The last airplane crash in Visalia was in January 2006, when a Piper PA-30 Comanche crashed about 400 feet short of the south end of the airport runway, killing four people.
The cause for Tuesday’s crash will be investigated by the NTSB and airport officials.
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