EASTON — A small airplane crashed in an open field Thursday morning as it was departing from Easton Airport.
The pilot, a Naval Academy midshipman who was conscious upon landing, suffered a severe leg injury but was able to extricate himself from the burning plane. Two employees from Barkers Landing Corporation, who were working on a construction site further down Technology Drive, rushed to the crash area and carried the pilot to safety.
With a belt, the workers, Robert Bridge and Derek Hoffman, then applied a tourniquet to the pilot’s leg before he was airlifted to the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
The plane was executing a test flight as part of the Naval Academy’s Powered Flight Program – a summer program conducted by Trident Aircraft that provides prospective naval aviators the opportunity to learn how to fly prior to beginning Naval Flight School.
According to a press release from the Naval Academy, participants in the Powered Flight Program undergo weeks of intensive training, memorization, and instructor-led flights. If qualified, midshipmen may fly solo.
The Naval Academy did not identify the midshipman in the Easton crash, but did confirm that there were no other persons in the plane.
The single-engine PA-28 model plane left Easton Airport shortly after 11 a.m. on June 24. According to Easton Airport manager Micah Risher, the facility was notified of the emergency landing at approximately 11:15 a.m.
Three fire and one rescue engines dispatched by the Easton Volunteer Fire Department arrived at the scene at 11:20 a.m., and the flames were extinguished less than five minutes after that, 3rd Lt. Justin Jones said.
According to Hoffman, who overheard the pilot’s call to 911, the plane had lost power before crashing. Neither Hoffman or Bridge saw smoke coming from the aircraft as it was coming down, though they described its flight as “wobbly.”
After hearing the crash, both men ran all the way down Technology Drive. The plane landed just past the end of the road in a field littered with steel beams.
Hoffman and Bridge found the pilot, who had managed to exit the cockpit, sitting on the ground next to the plane. He was on the phone with 911.
“He was well aware of what was going on,” Hoffman said of the pilot.
Without the patient’s name, the Shock Trauma Center was unable to provide an update on his condition at this time.
The crash is currently under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Flight Standards Office in Linthicum Heights. Further investigations will be conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Easton Airport, as well as the airport’s Air Traffic Control Tower, which will run through its own list of investigative procedures.