Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Die as Plane Slams Down; Pilot Was a Veteran Flier

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Die as Plane Slams Down; Pilot Was a Veteran Flier

Article excerpt

ST. AUGUSTINE - A small, powerful airplane that took off and almost immediately wheeled into the ground Thursday, killing an experienced pilot and prospective buyer who were on board, was in a class of planes that are both demanding to fly and sensitive to operate, an expert on aviation crashes said.

No cause for the crash of the single engine Velocity 173RG had been determined as federal investigators worked to determine what happened to cause the plane to go down off the end of a St. Augustine/St. Johns County Airport runway.

Gene Powers, a veteran pilot who owned an aviation maintenance business at the airfield, died as did a prospective buyer who was on the flight, Assistant Airport Manager J. Bryan Cooper said. The buyer's name was not released by authorities pending notification of next of kin.

The plane's owner, Gary Forhan of Orange Park, said he had just heard of the crash when he was contacted by The Times-Union.

"I know absolutely nothing," he said. "I've just been informed my plane crashed."

The Velocity, a rear engine plane with its main wing at the rear of the fuselage and a smaller wing in front, took off about 3 p.m. and was headed southeast from an 8,000-foot runway. Witnesses said the plane lifted off and almost immediately dove into the marsh at the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway.

"Eyewitness accounts said it turned and crashed," said Sgt. Chuck Mulligan of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

The plane, which Mulligan said had been in operation for several years, slammed into the ground after takeoff.

"It looks to me like it sort of cartwheeled across the salt marsh," Cooper said.

Overcast but clear weather did not appear to be a factor in the crash, he said.

The aircraft is the same model of plane that crashed and killed singer John Denver in 1997, said Chad Roberts, a Jacksonville pilot and aviation accident attorney.

Velocity planes are built from a kit and usually attract experienced pilots who are looking for high performance, Roberts said. …

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