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November 2, 2003

Plane crash kills 1

Record-Eagle staff writer

      TRAVERSE CITY - A Traverse City man was killed Saturday when a small airplane he was flying crashed in a field just south of Cherry Capital Airport as he came in to land.
      The name of the 50-year-old man has not been released as police try to contact his relatives.
Record-Eagle/Meegan Reid
Officers and rescue personnel survey the scene of a small airplane crash in a field on the south side of South Airport Road.
      The single-engine, possibly home-built aircraft went down about 3:50 p.m. just south of South Airport Road on land owned by the airport, said Capt. Steve Morgan of the Traverse City Police Department.
      Police confirmed the pilot's death and left the body in the plane so they wouldn't have to disturb possible evidence while waiting for Federal Aviation Administration investigators to arrive from Grand Rapids, Morgan said. The federal officials were expected to be there about 9 p.m.
      The pilot had circled above Cherryland Mall, communicating with the airport tower about flight control problems before attempting the landing, Morgan said.
      The crash occurred about 300 feet short of the runway. It was reported by a nearby resident who heard it and saw a cloud of dust rising from the spot.
      Morgan believes this is the first fatal plane crash in the city in about 15 years, he said.
      Mike Rosa, a salesman at Traverse Motors next to the airport, said he saw the plane take off a while before the crash.
      "It whizzed off and I went back to my thing," he said. "It sounded like a fast plane, like a performance plane."
      He did not see or hear the crash, but heard sirens a short time later and wondered if it was because of the plane, so he went to the site of the crash.
      He had seen a man building the aircraft throughout the summer in a hangar next to the car dealership, he added.
      "It has a rear propeller. It's a weird-looking plane," he said. "It looks like a little fighter jet and it's no bigger than my car."
      People working at Charter Communications next to the field did not hear the crash, either.
      "It must have been quiet," said Mike Ray, one of the people working there. "All I heard was the ambulance."

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