TRUCKEE, Calif. — Federal officials are investigating the circumstances surrounding a fatal single-engine plane crash Thursday morning at Truckee Tahoe Airport.
Ian Gregor, a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the aircraft, a Piper Comanche, went down shortly after takeoff under “unknown circumstances” and crashed into a hangar at the airport at about 8:15 a.m.
The pilot, the only person on board, was killed, Gregor said. There were no other people or planes in the hangar where the plane crashed.
The aircraft is registered to a Northern California man, Gregor said. The pilot's name was not available as of press time, as next of kin had yet to be notified.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident, Gregor said, with NTSB taking the lead. Typically, investigations take months before probable causes are determined.
According to various reports, emergency officials with the airport, as well as Truckee Police Department, Truckee Fire Protection District, California Highway Patrol and other organizations, worked into the late morning Thursday to manage a potentially dangerous fuel leak from the accident site.
The incident marks the fifth death related to a plane crash at the airport in recent memory, according to previous reports.
On June 18, 2010, Raymond Rotge, 66, of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Mack Johnston, 71, of Chewelah, Wash., were killed after crashing a home-built, single-engine Vans RV8 aircraft on approach. On Dec. 28, 2005, Jonathan Martin, 40, and Brett Karpy, 34, both pilots for a Pennsylvania company, died after the corporate Learjet 35A they were flying crashed and exploded while attempting to land.
Thursday's incident also marks the ninth documented small-engine plane crash at or near the airport the past four years. Below is a quick rundown of the past eight incidents, according to the NTSB and previous Sierra Sun reports:
• Sept. 21, 2011: Brian Mettler, a pilot from Bakersfield, Calif., survived after he was able to exit a twin-engine Piper Aztec passenger plane that crashed and burst into flames while attempting to take off at about 9:24 a.m. Mettler told emergency personnel the aircraft had somehow stalled during takeoff. Weather conditions reportedly did not lead to the crash.
• July 14, 2010: A Cessna 170 landing at the airport at about 1:30 p.m. ended up off the runway and upside down. The pilot, Thomas Lippert of Truckee, the only occupant of the plane, walked away uninjured. The crash occurred after the plane hit a gust of wind upon landing, and the right main wheel hit a boulder on the runway's berm, causing the flip.
• June 18, 2010: Raymond Rotge, 66, of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Mack Johnston, 71, of Chewelah, Wash., were killed after crashing a home-built, single-engine Vans RV8 aircraft on approach to land. The plane crashed about 1 mile northeast of the airport, after taking off from it, at about 2:10 p.m.
• April 3, 2010: A Cessna T210N flown by Redwood City, Calif., resident Eric Woodman landed near a runway at about 9 a.m. at the airport on a snow-covered surface. The plane skidded and eventually stopped upright after hitting a snow berm. Woodman, who admitted to being in the wrong by landing the way he did, and his wife were not injured.
• Dec. 13, 2009: A pilot and passenger — Charles E. Simmons, of Los Altos, Calif., and David P. Burrow, of Woodside, Calif. — in a single-engine turbo prop TBM 850 walked away uninjured after the aircraft crashed on approach to the airport. The pilot reportedly encountered problems handling the aircraft before going down in the Joerger Ranch property south of the Highway 267 overpass in several feet of snow at about 5:30 p.m. The runways were open and plowed, but visibility was limited.
• Sept. 7, 2009: Four people — Karen Lynn Trolan (pilot), Steve Terrill Trolan, Lindsey Erin Trolan and Marilyn Mitchell, all of Los Gatos, Calif. — were seriously injured after a single-engine Cessna 206 crashed while departing the airport at 6:49 p.m., coming to rest upside-down between Martis Creek Dam Road and Highway 267 in the Martis Valley. Due to a lawsuit being filed in late 2010 by the teenage girl hurt in the crash, this incident remains under investigation.
• July 17, 2009: Michael E. Seely, of Aromas, Calif., was uninjured after the plane he was flying, which had a Continental IO 470 engine, crashed shortly after takeoff at from the airport at 7:45 p.m., landing on the ground about 1 mile away, right side up. The hard landing was due to mechanical failure.
• Sept. 14, 2008: Maxim Ostrooukhov, a pilot from Redmond, Wash., was injured after the single-engine Cessna 177B he was flying crashed about 500 feet from the main runway of the airport, shortly after taking off in the afternoon. The crash reportedly ripped off the wings of the plane, according to investigators, who also determined the plane was loaded to within 50 pounds of its maximum gross weight. Four people were on board.