Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 7, 2008

5:35pm: Pilot killed in Kalkaska plane crash

KALKASKA — The pilot of a single-engine plane who tried, but failed to land at Cherry Capital Airport in harsh, wintery conditions this afternoon died when he crashed into a house off M-66 south of Kalkaska.

The Cessna 206 had taken off from St. Paul, Minn., and was believed headed to Glens Falls, N.Y., said Tony Molinaro, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Chicago.

The male pilot was the aircraft’s lone occupant, said witnesses, including Scott Sanford and Justin Rider, who were shoveling snow when the plane clipped a stand of nearby pines and crashed into the rear of their house off M-66 south of Cool Road.

“We had just stepped out, maybe two minutes before,” Stanford said. “It went right into our house.”

Rider said the men watched as the plane twice circled the area and they ran as it hit the trees and hurtled toward them.

“A door about 10 feet above flew right over me,” Rider said. “It was crazy.”

The pilot attempted to land at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City a short time before the crash, said Ron Hubbard, a FAA official based here.

“Our controllers cleared him to land (but) he couldn’t see the runway,” Hubbard said.

The Cessna turned north toward Elk Rapids, where Cherry Capital’s tower lost sight of him. He reappeared on radar heading toward the Kalkaska area, Hubbard said.

“Nobody could reach him,” he said. Then, “everybody lost contact with him.”

Heavy snow and high winds descended on the area this afternoon, but authorities said it was too soon to say if weather played a role in the crash.

The pilot’s identity hasn’t been released yet, and the cause of the crash is under investigation.

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