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Posted on Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

No injuries reported in Cessna plane crash at Ann Arbor airport

By Sven Gustafson


Terry Williams snapped this photo of the Cessna's three passengers examining the plane just moments after the crash occurred.

Photo courtesy of Terry Williams

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Terry Williams, a witness to the scene.

Pittsfield Township authorities said no one was injured in in a crash of a single-engine Cessna plane at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport on Sunday.


A fire truck on the scene of a Cessna plane crash Sunday at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport.

Photo courtesy Celyn Rogers

The incident took place around 11:17 a.m.

All passengers had emerged from the plane and reported no injuries by the time police and firefighters arrived, the Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety said in a news release.

Ann Arbor resident and self-described "aircraft nut" Terry Williams was taking pictures at the airport, which he said was being used by a flying group for its annual pancake breakfast fundraiser and fly-in. He said the accident happened as the pilot attempted to land the plane on a shorter, lesser-used grass runway.

"For some reason, I just happened to catch this one coming in and my immediate reaction was, why is he using this runway, because all the planes that were flying in and out were using the long runway," Williams said.

The pilot was also landing with the wind, "which is a big no no," he said. "When he came in to land, the wind was literally right on his tail. He would have wanted to land the exact opposite way."

Williams said the plane dropped steeply as it approached the runway and cleared the trees, bounced two or three times, then took a violent bounce that caused the plane to pitch over nose-first into the ground, plowing into the grass before eventually coming to a rest. A message was left with Deputy Police Chief Gordon Schick, and no one answered the phone at the airport.

Williams said it appeared the plane was carrying the pilot, a woman who appeared to be his wife, and their son. He said firefighters arrived on the scene within minutes of the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the incident.



Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

The short grassy runway probably was not their best choice; I wonder why they used it? A far as the location of this airport, it was there long before any development in the area and anyone who objects should not have invested in housing so close to the municipal airport.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

This is just an aircraft version of a fender bender. R30/12 is a little tricky since you have to be ready to cross the slightly elevated concrete (R6/24) runway & taxi-way. I'm glad no one was injured.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

A crash? Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing!

Usual Suspect

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

In a way, all good landings are crashes.

Paul Wehr

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

I just wanted to qualify the implication that the runway selection was significant problem ("a big no no"). It's certainly not illegal (violation of Federal Aviation Regulations), to the contrary, since the tower was in operation, I can only assume the pilot requested and received clearance to land on that runway (30), and I know that he was not the first to runway 30 (I remember wondering why the the pilot of a Cirrus that left around 8:45 was departed in that direction). More challenging to land (apparently 30 knots difference) faster, sure, and perhaps even ill-advised but not what I would raise to the level of "no no", IMHO. I also hope the pilot has good rental insurance, as a propeller strike is a mandatory $12-20k engine tear-down and re-assembly.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.

@Julius: "Why are people pointing at the development in the area? From the story, it's clear that the pilot used the wrong runway for the situation." Maybe the thinking is "If the pilot can use the wrong runway in good visibility conditions, landing with the direction of the wind, what else can go wrong?"


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:31 p.m.



Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

Why are people pointing at the development in the area? From the story, it's clear that the pilot used the wrong runway for the situation. Glad everyone is unhurt. What's the old phrase? "Any landing you can walk away from is a good one!"


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:14 a.m.

I'd be fine if they just closed the turf one. No one needs that one for anything.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

A pilot could have a crosswind on the paved runway that was higher than his/her skill level, and the grass strip, being angled differently, would make for a safer landing. Secondarily, the ability to train for soft field takeoffs and landings is useful, although there are other unpaved runways in the area.

Anthony Clark

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

There is a specific procedure used to take off and land on a soft field. This procedure must be mastered and performed during the private pilot checkride. There is no better way to practice the soft field technique than on an actual soft field. Plus, landing on grass is just plain fun!


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

Actually, yesterday would have been the perfect day for using it. The wind was out of the south-southeast at 15-20kts. Runway 12 (the southeast pointing grass runway) would have been perfect. Also, I am based at Willow Run, but it's undergoing some serious construction so we've been asked to practice elsewhere for the time being. I also use Brighton, Oakland Southwest (New Hudson), Plymouth-Canton Mettetal, Livingston County and Pontiac airports. Each one posing different challenges and runway sizes for my students to practice on. Willow Run's 6,000ft - 150ft wide runways start to become "too easy" for them, so we go else where. You know why? Because we can! :) Come on out to the flight school some day, I'll be happy show ya around and you can see how we really operate. Have a great day!


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:58 a.m.

Aviation Center is a for-profit rental operation. Was it rented for the purpose of "a flying group for its annual pancake breakfast fundraiser"?


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

"The accident airplane was not participating in the EAA fly-in." How about the bounce-in?


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 6:16 a.m.

While the aircraft is listed in the Aviation Center's list of available rentals, it's not uncommon for someone else to own the airplane and lease it back as a trainer.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 6:12 a.m.

According to the FAA registration records, Aviation Center is not the owner of this aircraft. A company named BTG Aviation LLC is the registered owner.

Anthony Clark

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 5:04 a.m.

The accident airplane was not participating in the EAA fly-in.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:17 a.m.

This is a strange one, and a story which I'll be following closely. I can't imagine Tower Approach recovering an aircraft on R 30 with a stiff tail wind, nor an experienced pilot ignoring SOP and protocol. If NC Terry's account of the landing is accurate, this sounds like operator error, especially with the bouncing and a**-over-teakettle result. As a 37 year pilot, 18 with USAF, I am still proud to declare my first pair of wings were issued from KARB, but sadly missed today's fly-in. I'm glad no one was injured, but this case sounds like it was more luck than skill that everyone walked away relatively unscathed. Props to Mr. Williams for providing us some boots-on-the-ground details.

Anthony Clark

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 5:15 a.m.

Something is definitely fishy about the eyewitness account in the article. Tower would not assign a runway with a tailwind unless specifically requested by the pilot and then would probably advise against it. Bouncing or porpoising on landing is a fairly common mistake for new, inexperienced, or out of practice pilots. I've done it myself. It usually doesn't get out of hand to the extent that an accident results. Fail to apply timely corrective action, though, and the oscillations just get worse and worse until you collapse the nose gear or get a prop strike. Fortunately, the worst injury is usually to the pilot's ego. This really is the equivalent of a fender bender in the automotive world. No need to blow it out of proportion.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 1:57 a.m.

They all walked away , so it was a good landing.

Becky H

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 12:01 a.m.

... Did someone say pancakes?!


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 11:57 p.m.

Pretty neat, glad everybody is OK.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 10:07 p.m.

This airport is just airplane dangerous. NO EXPANSION. Close it before a complete disaster happens.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

I got here at 8am this morning... will leave around 9pm tonight. I got here at 8am yesterday, left at 8:30pm. This cycle will repeat until the weekend, where I'll work 8-2pm both days. Welcome to aviation.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

Sounds more like pilot error, airport has nothing to do with this accident.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

Basic Bob - "Pittsfield's strong opposition (whatever that means)"... If you can't grasp "whatever that means," than nothing I say will help you. Bottom line: It's not happening. You can go review township meeting minutes or spend a few minutes of easy research and see what "strong opposition" means. Pittsfield has strong leadership and a unified voice representing its voters that is strongly opposed to any expansion of the airport. It's not a safety issue at all. The safety angle is simply the latest in an ongoing attempt (spanning multiple decades) to make an end game to expand the airport. The flight path of larger planes will affect far more than the houses that some like to thumb their noses at in Stonebridge. It will affect a large portion of Ann Arbor as well. Common sense dictates that there is simply no need for longer runways and bigger planes to come in and out of the Ann Arbor Airport when there is the much bigger and better equipped Willow Run Airport 15 minutes away. Personally, I'm all for the small plane pilots who currently use the airport like A2Fly... although I think / hope that there is some exaggeration going on there. If you are working 80 hours a week and make $30k, then you're making $7.21/hour without OT. You'd make more at any two minimum wage jobs totaling 80 hours of work. I hope that you're making more than that or working fewer hours than that.

Usual Suspect

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 12:19 p.m.

Dave - because he wants to use this airport.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : noon

The airport was there before you were. Suck it up.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:32 a.m.

Hey A2Fly, why not use Willow Run instead?

Basic Bob

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:09 a.m.

@A2Reality, This is an environmental assessment for the road project, it is not an impact statement for the airport. Pittsfield's strong opposition (whatever that means) is weakened by their need to purchase right of way from the airport owner (the city). The road project as proposed meets minimum requirements for clearance. I doubt that the city airport will accept minimum.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 4:11 a.m.

A2Doc, I fly in and out of ARB every day. I don't own my the airplanes I fly, I'm not a rich guy and I don't have a suite at The Big House. I work for a local business, supporting the local economy, not "the man" and I'm a recent graduate from a local university. I slave at work 70-80hours a week teaching people (just like you) how to not end up like this guy today. The TL;DR, airplanes aren't just for rich guys. I get paid under $30k/year to fly $305,000 machines through the air at 120mph with students who have zero experience. If you think they're spending serious money at ARB, check out the project going on at YIP. You'll realize how insignificant another 1,000ft of runway at ARB really is. Why am I even posting this? We all know people outside of aviation have ZERO idea what actually happens and don't really care to even think it through logically.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 3:28 a.m.

LOL, Basic Bob - you present a fantasy. And after they widen the road, and add even more runway, they at going to add a little taxi way all the way down Ann Arbor - Saline Rd. That way you and all your rich buddies can fly in, buzz along Main, to watch the football in those nice new boxes. No, the truth is the airport expansion was a wasteful bad idea. Wasteful of federL and local funds. Thankfully, like other bad ideas it has ground to a halt.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 2:17 a.m.

Basic Bob - Did you look through the document that you referenced? There is absolutely NO MENTION of lengthening the runways at the airport. Pittsfield Township is strongly opposed to lengthening the runways. The pitch that lengthened runways is being done for safety is a joke. None of the incidents that have occurred were due to the runways being of inadequate length. It's not "for safety" as you put it. It's strictly being pushed by a minority of individuals that would like to have longer runways so that bigger corporate jets can use the airport. Let's stop the charade. I don't think that the airport needs to be closed, but the runways also don't need to be lengthened.

Usual Suspect

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

"This airport is just airplane dangerous." Can you explain how you got to that conclusion?

Anthony Clark

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

OMG, I hear there was a fender bender between two cars at Briarwood Mall. We need to close the mall immediately before a complete disaster happens! Ban all cars from the city too. They are death traps I tell ya! No one should be allowed to operate those dangerous contraptions.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 10:21 p.m.

Ann Arbor has no intention of closing it, and the runway relocation will be necessary when State Road is transformed into a 4-lane road with 20-foot wide boulevard medians, 10-foot multi-use paths, and on-street bike lanes. For safety. And federal and state matching funds. They can't shorten the runway, so as long as they are repaving part of it they might as well go for the whole 850 foot extension to the east. For safety. And federal and state matching funds. I'm sure the township board will be sorry your house is in the way, but once you knock down the first domino, the rest are sure to fall.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

The plane was landing on the short runway - which crosses the main runway. As the plane touched down it bounced a few times - which pilots normally refer to as "porpoising". On the third or fourth bounce it went up about 10-15 feet above the ground and came back down at a fairly steep angle. It then nosed over and plowed into the grass with its tail in the air as you can see from the picture. There appeared to be three people aboard - a man, a woman and a child. They all emerged from the aircraft on their own power and seemed to be fine - although people who spoke to them said they were pretty shaken. The aircraft appeared to be in pretty good shape all things considered. According to the tail number it's a Cessna 172 registered to an address at the A2 airport. The event occurred during the fly-in that accompanies the annual pancake breakfast fundraiser put on by the Experimental Aircraft Association.