Blogs > Daily Local Dan

A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The silent aviator

It's always frustrating when someone refuses to talk to me. But if I just crashed my plane, I wouldn't want to talk to a reporter either.

Late Thursday afternoon, my editors, who were listening to the police scanner we keep in the middle of the newsroom, heard that a plane crashed on Five Points Road near the Brandywine Airport.

They sent me and a few photographers to the scene. I didn't know what to expect -- having spent most of my career covering local government, I'm more comfortable at planning commission meetings than at accident scenes.

I drove down Five Points Road thinking I'd eventually run into a crumpled mass of metal.

Instead, I saw a police SUV with it's lights flashing. Since the road next to the SUV was clear, I figured the officer had just pulled someone over. Then I saw a small, bent up red airplane nestled in the grass.

I asked a bystander what happened.

He told me that the pilot's engine stalled just as he reached the end of the runway. He said the pilot was faced with two options: allow the plane to take flight and then try to land it gently, or slam on the breaks. The pilot went for the latter option, and ended up running his plane off the hill just beyond the runway.

Both the bystander and the police sergeant I spoke with agreed that the pilot had made the right choice -- if he'd allowed the plane to take off, it could've landed in the middle of rush-hour traffic on Route 202.

As I chatted with the bystander, the pilot was pacing beside his plane, talking on his cell phone. The bystander said the pilot was probably being "chewed out" by the FAA. From the fearfully respectful, one-word answers he was giving, I figured that was probably the case.

When the pilot got off the phone, I approached him.

"I'm from the newspaper," I said. "Could you tell me what happened here?"

His lips shut tight, he shook his head.

"Could I have your name?"

Same reaction.

I was disappointed. But even in the dusky light, I could see he was upset, shaken. He'd just made a decision that had saved a few lives. And his plane, worth tens of thousands of dollars, was in bad shape. I decided it was best to leave him alone.

So I headed back to the newsroom and, with two stories left to file, spent a few minutes typing up this report.

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