Del Mar pilot survives emergency landing in Santee
A light plane on an emergency landing approach to Gillespie Field clipped trolley power lines and crashed onto a street at the western edge of the airport Wednesday, coming to rest upside-down with the 79-year-old pilot trapped inside and severed live electrical wires draped across it.
KGTV/Channel 10 identified the pilot as Paul Oas of Del Mar.
Oas was flying the Czech Aircraft Works Sportcruiser and had just taken off from the airfield, en route to Ramona, when he radioed the tower about 10:30 a.m., saying he had to return due to some sort of problem with the plane’s cockpit canopy, according to police and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Moments later, the aircraft and about 150 feet of power lines came down across Cuyamaca Street, near Weld Boulevard, igniting a patch of roadside grass alongside a chain-link fence at the edge of the airport.
Based on witness accounts, the transparent cockpit cover on the plane may have come off shortly before the crash, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Emergency crews from several agencies were able to quickly extinguish the small fire but had to wait for transit and utility personnel to cut off the power to the downed transmission cables before starting the task of freeing the pilot, who was alone in the plane, according to Monica Zech, a spokeswoman for the El Cajon Fire Department.
Firefighters got Oas out of the single-engine aircraft shortly after 11 a.m. and took him to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries to his arms.
No one on the ground was hurt, Gregor said.
Trolley service between Santee and El Cajon will be suspended for at least several days due to the equipment damage caused by the accident, according to Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer of Metropolitan Transit System.
MTS will provide bus service between the two cities until it can reopen its Gillespie Field and Santee Town Center trolley stations, Jablonski said.
Cuyamaca Street was expected to remain closed between Prospect and North Marshall avenues through sometime this evening.
The damaged plane is based at Gillespie Field and used for training and as a rental aircraft, El Cajon police Lt. Jeff Davis said. It is registered to a Billy Browning of Lakeside, according to FAA records.
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