November 20, 2012

Fatal Maine plane crash raises new questions on safety

Small airport operations are run by the employees and pilots themselves. Most of the time, the system works.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

"There isn't a cop at every intersection, but things usually work smoothly," he said.

David Miramant, who flies a plane for a company in Belfast and owns a glider business, said vehicles cross the runway at the Knox County airport "all day, every day," without problems the vast majority of the time.

"A couple of years ago, the airport manager talked to all of us who operate regularly out there, and the directive was to always have a radio and to take extra care," Miramant said. "And that seems to have worked well."

Other pilots who are familiar with the airport said rules dictate that the plane always has the right of way.

"As a pilot, you're not thinking about anything but keeping that wheel on the line during takeoff," said Chuck Kruger, a state representative from nearby Thomaston who used to have a pilot's license. "Everything else should yield to the plane. I can't imagine what the truck driver was doing on the runway."

Lisa Reece, president of the Maine Aeronautics Association and an avid flyer, agreed that no pilot wants to see a vehicle on the runway during takeoff or landing.

"But you know they are around," she said. "It's all part of the environment."

Employees of Penobscot Island Air often cross the runway at Knox County Regional Airport to go between the company's hangar and the airport's main building.

Miramant, who has flown into and out of the airport many times, said he can picture how the truck driver may not have seen the plane. When it's dark, pilots are taught to "key" their radios to activate the airport's lights. That happened Friday, Northgraves said.

But to someone on the ground, Miramant said, "The lights of the runway could have very easily blended in with the lights of the plane."

Even before the NTSB issues its report, Northgraves said, Friday's crash will certainly prompt discussion about whether policies at the airport should change. The airport operates on a protocol approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, but Northgraves said it could adopt more stringent rules.

Csoros said, "One of the most dangerous things (pilots) do is ground operation."

It's worse at bigger airports, he said, even with controllers directing traffic.

Reece, of the Maine Aeronautics Association, said it's always good to ask questions when something like this happens.

"This affects our entire industry," she said, "and we want to be a safe industry."

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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Additional Photos

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Dave Cheney

  


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