Plane ignites Sunday after landing at Mid Valley

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Investigators are unsure of how a fire started on a single-engine airplane Sunday that prompted a pilot to exit the aircraft immediately after landing at Mid Valley Airpark in Los Chavez.

About 8 a.m., the man, whose name was not released, successfully landed the small plane and tried to put the blaze out with a fire extinguisher. The man landed the plane after he smelled smoke coming from the engine, according to officials. He was not injured.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: An FAA official examines the wreckage of a single-engine airplane while an onlooker stands nearby at Mid Valley Airpark in Los Chavez. The pilot of the plane had to exit the aircraft after he reportedly smelled smoke. Shortly after exiting, the plane burst into flames. No one was injured.

FFA officials remained on scene until at least 12:30 p.m., but did not say what type of mechanical error caused the fire.

“The investigation is still underway,” said Lynn Lunsford, a Dallas-based spokesman for FAA. “Given the extent of the damage, it may prove difficult to say for sure what caused the fire.”

According to FAA registry, the plane is registered to Los Lunas resident Donald Black and lists the plane as a Cozy III, single-engine, home-built plane.

Paul Glenn, an Albuquerque resident, was fueling up his 1974 Cessna Cardinal as officials examined debris from the plane Sunday. Glenn said he has flown for more than 20 years and flies once a week on business trips.

He said Sunday’s incident is an instance that comes with the territory.

Glenn said he knew pilot Chester Smith, who was one of two killed near the Belen Alexander Municipal Airport after his plane clipped power lines in March.

But Glenn said he will continue to fly.

Courtesy of Bernice Werner: A single-engine airplane burst into flames on Sunday morning at Mid Valley Airpark in Los Chavez. No one was injured.

“Mechanical things happen,” Glenn said. “You have procedures that provide for safety.”

Bob Hartman, 93, is a pilot who has flown planes since 1943. He said Sunday’s incident doesn’t make him think twice about getting into the cockpit.

On one occasion, he said he was flying a B-29 over Lordsburg, when he lost one of his four engines to an internal fire. He said he managed to land the aircraft without incident.

“(The engine) fell completely off the aircraft,” Hartman said.

Glenn said pilots need to stay sharp on protocol in order to prevent a plane malfunction.

“Things happen on an aircraft, just like they do an automobile,” Glenn said. “The real difference is training. You can’t just step out and fix (the problem) like you could with a car.”


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.