Purdue aviation expert weighs in on student plane crash

WLFI File Photo

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WLFI) — A night of training at an airport in Fort Wayne ended with a crash for two Purdue students late Wednesday night.

Purdue’s airport is the second busiest in the state, and as you can imagine a lot of flight training goes on there. In order to log enough time in the air, some students have to train at other airports.

Unfortunately, for two students in the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology, a training flight at Fort Wayne International Airport ended with a crash landing.

“On a training program like this, you don’t often hear about an accident. It’s really an unusual occurrence,” said Richard Fanjoy, the associate head of Purdue’s School of Aviation and Transportation Technology. “But even one accident is a bad thing.”

Fanjoy said the crash would not have been due to a lack of training.

“We go over all the possible things that could occur, how you deal with it,” he added. “We make sure that they’re completely up to date on their knowledge, and we feel comfortable at that point that we’re not going to have a problem.”

A student was piloting a Cirrus SR20 with an instructor when it crashed just after 10 p.m. Wednesday. Purdue spokesman Jim Bush said the plane was caught in a strong crosswind while practicing takeoffs and landings.

That’s when it approached the runway and crashed.

“Students get briefed on any imaginable scenario that you and I could come up with,” Fanjoy said. “Of course, there’s always a chance for one of those things that no one would have ever dreamed of.”

The crash was the second involving a Purdue student pilot in about five months.

In October, a Purdue student was practicing takeoffs and landings in Muskegon, Michigan, when the plane’s nose fell off. The plane then dropped onto its front and skidded to a stop.

“Two in that period of time is unusual from my experience,” explained Fanjoy. “I’ve been here almost 20 years in the program, and I’m not sure the last time we’ve had any accident that was any more than a minor thing.”

Fortunately, the two students avoided life-threatening injuries. At least one of the students was released from the hospital Wednesday.

“Everyone is very important to us, and we’re just glad to get them back safe and sound,” Fanjoy said.

All instructors, including student instructors, are qualified through the Federal Aviation Administration. The investigation has been taken over by the FAA and NTSB.

Fanjoy said Purdue will take an internal look at procedures and maintenance logs.