You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

Ann Arbor airport plane crash: Pilot told police wind may have caused it

By Paula Gardner

The pilot of the small plane that crashed Thursday at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport told police he was 30 to 50 feet in the air during takeoff when the aircraft kept veering to the left and crashed on the ground.

That account is in the Pittsfield Township Police Department's report on the crash. Police released the report on Tuesday as federal officials continue their investigation.


Melanie Maxwell |

According to the report, pilot Robert Bennett rented the single-engine, two-seater plane from the Ann Arbor Aviation Center.

According to Mark Roisen, president of the Ann Arbor Aviation Center, Bennett rented the "aircraft in order to conduct a solo flight" the report says. Bennett was licensed to do that, according to officials.

Bennett told police the plane kept veering to the left after takeoff "and he was trying to get it back however it just kept going and brought him to the ground," according to the report.

The plane was found about 1/4-mile east of the western edge of the No. 6 runway, about 75 feet from the initial point of impact.

Bennett was conscious and alert on the scene of the crash, according to the report. Emergency personnel, including Pittsfield Township firefighters and Huron Valley Ambulance, had to extricate him from the wreckage.

He was taken to University of Michigan Hospital. He's no longer a patient there, according to officials.

Attempts to reach Bennett were unsuccessful, and the Ann Arbor Aviation Center declined comment Monday.



Fri, May 25, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

Clearly a lot of Ann Arbor pilots reading this given all the thumbs down to area residents' LEGITIMATE concerns about the proposed airport expansion.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

...and might I add it's a bit disingenuous to suggest that because somebody bought a home near a municipal airport that they should accept it being turned into a "regional" airport. The site is not appropriate for the runway extensions being proposed. If you want to fly larger planes, use the underutilized Willow Run airport. Worst case is the rich doctors spend a few more minutes in the limo.


Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

All of this reminds me of Chicago politics...never let a crisis (however sad it might be for some) go to waste when you can score political points. The doomsday scenarios "created" by some on this blog could happen today...but haven't. If the runway extension/shift could somehow be completed "overnight" I doubt if anyone would notice any increase in noise or increase in aircraft proximity to neighborhoods. I agree with the comment..."Chicken Little" stop squacking and go lay an egg...get a life"


Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 5:49 a.m.

"The most dangerous part of any flight is the drive to/from the airport." Old axiom.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

When citing the remote possibility of a plane crash on a nearby house as a reason not to expand the runway, I wonder why those poster's fail, utterly, to cite the profoundly unsafe highways immediately surrounding AA? When you look at the serious/fatal accidents every year on M14, I94 and US23, there, my friends, are bonafied accidents, not just hand-wringing Possibles. So let's keep things in perspective. Here we have a minor mishap. A small plane with some bent aluminum. A pilot with a bruised ego, and a visit from his friends at the FAA. Nothing more. Chicken LIttle! Go back to your coop.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

Poor guy. Wind may have been a 'factor', but not a 'cause'. Improper handling of the aircraft and/or poor decision making would be the primary cause of this accident. We'll just have to wait and see what the NTSB has to say. For interesting reading, have a look and the NTSB Reporter. It's basically a compilation of accident reports provided by the NTSB. BTW, weather is virtually NEVER cited as a cause in an accident. Only a factor. You'll only find it cited when a tornado or such wipes out a bunch of aircraft on the ground.

Ron Torrella

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

Okay - since we've veered off of the debate pattern regarding the pros and cons of building a bunch of mcmansions just west of a municipal airport in order to debate the more relevant issue of a cross-country flight vs flying cross-country...I wonder why the news report cites the final resting point as being 1/4 EAST of the WESTERN edge of the runway. Kinda like saying "he set the bottle down 18 inches to the right of his left hand," the point of that being..... ?? From which direction were the prevailing winds coming that day? West? Northwest? Southwest? Was the plane heading northeast or southwest when it took off? (Runway 6 sounds like he was headed northeast.) Bad pilots make the same bad decisions regardless of their proximity to an airport, btw. So a plane taking off from or headed to Willow Run or DTW could also slam into the ground just west of the A2 airport. Maybe a little less likely, but...


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

This poor guy wasn't flying "Across the Country." He was probably just trying to go to Lansing and back... 14 C.F.R. Part 61 Section 61.1.b.4.ii (4) Cross-country time means— (ii) For the purpose of meeting the aeronautical experience requirements (except for a rotorcraft category rating), for a private pilot certificate (except for a powered parachute category rating), a commercial pilot certificate, or an instrument rating, or for the purpose of exercising recreational pilot privileges (except in a rotorcraft) under §61.101 (c), time acquired during a flight— (A) Conducted in an appropriate aircraft; (B) That includes a point of landing that was at least a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and (C) That involves the use of dead reckoning, pilotage, electronic navigation aids, radio aids, or other navigation systems to navigate to the landing point.

Alex Nickodemus

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

Also 61.93, regarding solo cross country requirements for pilot's license training. It is entirely possible this guy was just trying to fill his flight requirements for his Pilot's license, and a combination of wind, nerves, inexperience, and perhaps fixation on one particular instrument or gauge, (as MANY student pilots tend to do) all played into this incident. All the speculation in the world means nothing though. The pilot crashed, and suffered only minor injuries. The plane didn't hit anyone or anything, and emergency services were quick in responding. All in all, a fairly successful crash landing.

Paula Gardner

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 7:03 p.m.

The info from the report referring to "across the country" has been removed from this story. Thanks to commenters who are familiar with aviation from pointing out that it could be an error in the report.

Alex Nickodemus

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

Hey,, just out of curiosity, did the pilot rent the plane to fly a "solo flight across the country", or did he rent it to fly a "solo cross country flight?" There's a BIG difference in the two, when talking about aviation terminology. Refer to FAR section 61.93 regarding the requirements for solo cross country flight. It defines a "cross country flight" as any flight greater than 25 nautical miles from the airport of origin. A trivial fact like this makes the difference between the pilot looking like a complete kook who planned to cross the nation in a light sport aircraft, and a pilot who had some (evidently unclear) control issues after takeoff.

Anthony Clark

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

As a pilot, I am very curious as to how wind is a factor at "30 to 50 feet in the air" after takeoff. Once you are airborne and climbing, it ceases to matter. You just maintain proper climb attitude and airspeed. The wind may change the plane's track over the ground, but that isn't going to cause the plane to crash to the ground if the pilot is maintaining proper control. A airplanes' track over the ground is irrelevant to how it behaves in the air.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 1:45 a.m.

Wind at 30-50 feet is not necessarily steady in direction and velocity. It can be unpredictably erratic.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

At the time of the incident, winds at KARB were 030@10G19. Very good chance he caught a gust and rotated too early with the additional 10kts indicated. Lost the wind gust, induces a wing stall, on top of high prop torque and RPM (major left turn tendencies) equals this result. Anthony, I don't know how long you've been flying, but I'm sure you know what happens when you quickly lose 10-20 knots of a headwind gust...moving mass or not...

John of Saline

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

A wake vortex (horizontal swirl from aircraft wingtip) can, but usually that's a BIG plane that accidentally flips a tiny plane in its wake.

Anthony Clark

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

Wind is nothing more than a moving mass of air. Once a plane is airborne, it is in the air mass and moving along with it. Just like a boat in a river. The plane moves through a moving air mass the same way it moves through a stationary air mass. It only affects the plane's course relative to the ground, which no longer matters after the plane leaves the ground. It was windy that day and that was undoubtedly a factor during the initial takeoff run, but wind couldn't have caused the plane to "crash to the ground" from "30 to 50 feet in the air".

John of Saline

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.

Swirling wind?


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

Thanks for the follow-up article. Glad the pilot is ok.

Chris Goosman

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

I think the quote from Mark Roisen was mis-heard. The pilot was likely attempting a cross-country flight, which is a specific term, and does not mean flying "across the country"

Usual Suspect

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 1:43 a.m.

Well, this is the place that thought that when an aircraft "stalls" it means the engine stopped.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

The Ann Arbor City Airport (which just happens to be completely surrounded by Pittsfield Township) is a disaster in the making. Sooner or later a plane will crash onto a home or buisness with tragic results. The airport should never be allowed to expand. The airport should be closed. That land would make a wonderful green space that the city seems to love. Why does anyone but a very small number of ELITES from the University of Michigan need this airport when Willow Run is nearby? When the crash occurs I hope the victims Call Sam or Fieger and sue the City and University and the elected officials that continue to stick their heads in the sand.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

annarboral- The Ann Arbor airport is responsible for an economic impact on the area measured in the tens of millions of dollars. flight training, fuel sales, landing and parking fees, car rentals, airplane rentals, employment, tourism etc. all lead to the airport being one of the largest economic engines in the Ann Arbor area. And it is utilized by people from all walks of life. I'm a flight instructor here, and I make my livelihood off of flight training all sorts of people. I have several students who are Michigan students. I have taught doctors, accountants, auto workers, engineers, medical technicians, teachers/professors, retirees, an FBI agent, and even a bounty hunter. And I have given discovery flights to an even more varied group. It's hardly limited to "Elites". There are a lot more flight rentals and training flights here than commercial operations- and that would not change, with or without an extension. and the airport provides easy access and excellent facilities to hundreds of pilots in the area, who enjoy the thrill and freedom afforded from flight. The airport is nothing but a positive for the city and area. The neighborhoods to the west were built in the 80s and 90s. There have probably been well over a million operations at the airport since Stonebridge and other developments were built, and yet you can only count on one hand the number of accidents, incidents and major occurrences at the airport in that time. And, the only one that I can think of that would have presented any sort of risk to the neighborhood was the Citabria going down on the fairway in 2009. Throughout their training, every pilot is taught how to deal with emergencies and abnormalities. We do engine runups before takeoff to check systems and the powerplant(s). We go over the parameters of each takeoff to plan for any issues. All of these efforts lead to safety-focused operations. There is a reason why there are so few incidents vs. number of operations- because flying

John of Saline

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

Yeah! And sooner or later, someone will crash in these "cars" we keep allowing on the "roads" around here. What will happen when THEY crash at high speed? People will be killed! Ban cars! Dig up the roads!

Ron Granger

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

The property around the airport was discounted because it was property around an airport. To the West, that was a quarry. I like it better when it was a quarry. Brilliant idea, build on the edge of an airport and then complain about the airport.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

Pretty clear to me that this crash could have just as easily happened on top of someone's house. Add a longer runway, closer to homes with more planes flying out, and you simply increase the odds it will happen. Not like a plane hasn't landed in a subdivision nearby already, right? Buying a home next to an airport doesn't mean you should expect the airport to get larger. No more than buying a home next to a road means I should expect the road to double, triple in size up to my porch. No where near my house but I can see now why people are concerned.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 1:38 a.m.

"Buying a home next to an airport doesn't mean you should expect the airport to get larger." Likewise, building an airport among farm fields doesn't mean you should expect some idiot to build a house under the flight path and then another idiot to buy it.


Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 12:26 a.m.

a2- This accident was most likely caused by the upset of the aircraft during the takeoff phase of flight in the presence of strong wind gusts, which resulted in the Remos becoming airborne too quickly (before the pilot was expecting it to). He probably maintained too slow of a speed and/or an excessive pitch after rotating too early and leaving ground effect, and coupled with the effects of a wind gust or sudden decrease in wind velocity, lost control. The factors that lead to the crash are much more related to the takeoff phase of flight, and not the departure phase. After any normally conducted takeoff with proper pitch control, the airplane quickly accelerates to a normal climb airspeed range, and is able to pretty easily deal with any wind effects. This crash occurred approximately .18 miles off the threshold of runway 6. It was a quarter mile from the nearest structure in any direction. It was half a mile from the departure end of runway 6, .60 miles from state street, and .89 miles from the nearest structure along the runway centerline of runway 6. If he was taking off from runway 24, he would have been approximately 1.02 miles from the nearest house along the runway centerline of 24. If the runway was set up like the planned extension, then he would have been... 1.02 miles from the the nearest house along the runway centerline. 200 feet of the 800 foot extension project calls for a displaced threshold at runway 24. So, he would have taken off from the same location on the runway.

Anthony Clark

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

Lohr and Ellsworth both used to be narrow dirt roads surrounded by fields. Just a few cars a day would travel that stretch of Lohr behind the airport at 35mph. Now hundreds, if not thousands, of cars race down that stretch at 50mph and faster. On their way to and from the thousands of homes that replaced the fields and forests. An enormous (and detrimental, IMO) change. Yet, no one seems to complain about such a noticeable and disruptive change. An 800 foot runway extension would be minuscule by comparison. It wouldn't even be noticeable by anyone but the pilots who land on it. I do live in line with the runway, but on the other end. Planes approach and depart right over my apartment. It worries me about as much as getting hit by lightning on a clear summer day. I would feel just as comfortable living on the end. I'm not rich enough to own a home there, though. What do you know? A pilot who isn't rich.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

According to your argument it sounds like we should also avoid buying houses on roads too. I'm guessing most of us are in trouble then.....

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

the flip side to your argument is buying a house near an airport doesn't mean you should expect it to stay the same size either. Same with a road. Roads do get wider and runways get longer. The safest way is to not a buy a house in the path of a runway if it makes you nervous. All those houses were built long after the airport.