Update: Pilot in small plane crash still in critical condition

By: Brandon Lewis Email
By: Brandon Lewis Email

The pilot involved in a crash-landing Monday at the South Bend Regional Airport remains in critical condition.

Monday afternoon, a single engine plane was hit by a gust of wind upon landing and did a cartwheel on the runway.

Airport officials say there was no wind advisory in effect so the gust took the pilot and air traffic controllers by surprise.

So far, the name of the pilot has not been released. Officials at Memorial Hospital say he is still there, in critical condition.

The FAA is investigating the crash.

The plane went down just to the right of the runway. Officials tell us it was a low-wing Cirrus SR22 single engine plane.

John Schalliol, Executive Director of the South Bend Regional Airport, said there were strong crosswinds at the time the plane was trying to land.

"it appeared that a gust of wind caught him, lifted his right wing up. He landed on the left wing, cart-wheeled to where he now rests, which is about 250 feet south of the center line of the runway," said Schalliol.

Schalliol added the pilot tried to do his best when landing in windy conditions. There was no advisory issued against landing.

"You pick the best runway, the runway that has the wind as close to the center line or as close to the direction of the runway as you can. With the wind today you can see the wind is coming out of the northwest so this was as good a choice as any. It's the widest runway, it's the longest runway, it's the safest runway. He took his best shot at it," said Schalliol.

The pilot was the only person on board the plane, and had to be extracted from the aircraft.

"He was conscious when he was taken out, but he was not in good shape," said Schalliol, who added rescue workers believed the pilot had a broken leg.

Air traffic at the airport was halted during the rescue, but resumed 30 minutes later. No commercial flights were cancelled as a result of the crash.

“It's always possible, every flight could end up like this of course but very few of them do. I had just hoped I would make it to the end of my career here without an accident as bad as this. This is the first in 34 years that is as bad as this one," said Schalliol.

The plane was flying from Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling, Ill. According to flight data the pilot took off at 11:06 a.m. EDT and traveled at an altitude of 5,000 ft before crashing at 11:47 a.m. EDT.

The plane was rented from Skokie, Ill.-based CanoeCouple, Inc. and had safely flown from Georgetown, Texas to Houston, Mo. and then to Wheeling, Ill. on Sunday.

A representative from the Great Lakes regional office of the Federal Aviation Administration would not release the pilot's name. The Flight Standards District Office of the FAA is investigating the crash.

According to the plane's manufacturer, the aircraft was equipped with airbag seat belts in the front seat. Its unclear if they functioned properly in the crash.

Federal Aviation Administration records show the aircraft was manufactured in 2008.

A Cirrus SR22 retails for about $500,000, depending on customization.

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