Saturday, July 26, 2008

Incident at Watertown Municipal

At about 3:45 pm this afternoon, a Cirrus airplane, reported to have 2 aboard, attempted a landing on runway 29 at Watertown Municipal Airport. The airplane appeared to abort the landing and lost control as it tried to climb out, veering to the left and crashing into a row of hangers. It is not known the extent of injuries at this time to those on board or any on the ground. It is very fortunate that the plane crashed there as it just missed crashing into 15 to 20 parked aircraft on the ramp that were assembled in preparation to travel to Oshkosh tomorrow. More information as I get it.

UPDATE: So far it has been reported that 2 people were aboard and both suffered non-fatal injuries although their exact condition is not known. This was a terrifying incident; Watertown was hosting a Piper Comanche gathering, and 3 dozen planes were parked on the ramp just behind my vantage point. Additionally there were several dozen people gathered in the main hanger for a barbeque. It could have been a disaster.

UPDATE 2: The occupants of the plane were a man and his wife. The injuries have been reported as non-life threatening. The plane was a Cirrus SR-22, which is equipped with seatbelt airbags. Those airbags may very well have saved two lives today. Very good news indeed.

FINAL UPDATE: A hero emerged from the incident yesterday. Curtis Loontjer, an employee of Wisconsin Aviation (the Fixed Based Operator), acted quickly and without regard for his own safety when he went into the crash and rescued the airplane's occupants. If not for his efforts, there would be no happy ending. A picture as published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel can be found here. As you can see, nothing remains but the engine and firewall. My favorite rental plane, a Cessna 152, is in the background. Also of note, the Cirrus is equipped with a ballistic recovery parachute powered by a rocket booster. During the incident, the booster cooked off and fired, causing some very scary moments. Something will need to be done to reduce the risk of cookoff in these boosters in the future.

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