A pilot was critically injured this morning when he crashed his experimental single-engine plane while taking off from the Smoketown Airport in Lancaster County.
Officials said the 74-year-old Gordonville man was flown by helicopter to the Crozer-Chester Medical Center near Philadelphia for treatment of severe burns and a head injury.
He was said to be awake when he placed into the medical helicopter, but his condition was described as critical. His name was not immediately released.
Witnesses told authorities that the pilot was alone in the plane and was taking off for a test flight when the aircraft suddenly lost power at about 50 feet. The plane crashed into a hanger and caught fire at around 9:30 a.m.
"Apparently he took off and when I saw it, the right wing dropped and I
saw the whole bottom of the airplane and he just hit the ground," airport manager Mel Glick said.
Glick said a water service truck just happened to be at the airport and near the hangar where the plane crashed. He said it was just one fortunate circumstance that allowed them to put out the flames very quickly.
"We all happened to be here," Glick said. "There was four to five guys with extinguishers from the hangars here, otherwise it would have been a lot worse."
"It actually saved the building and possibly saved the patient's life," Witmer Fire Chief Matt Bono said.
Officials said the man was a "very experienced" pilot who had rebuilt the plane over the last two or three years.
It is considered an experimental aircraft because it was home modified, they said.
The crash was the third at the airport in East Lampeter Township this year.
A Lancaster County pilot was killed when his two-seater ultralight stalled after take-off and crashed into an unoccupied mobile home on March 30.
The pilot of a small helicopter was injured when he crashed shortly after taking off on May 29.