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Former military jet crashes in Harford Co., killing pilot

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Former military jet crashes in Harford Co., killing pilot

Old 26th Aug 2003, 02:15
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Former military jet crashes in Harford Co., killing pilot


Former military jet crashes in Harford Co., killing pilot
Aircraft clips house, explodes in back yard; No one on ground hurt

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The site of a plane crash in Forest Hill (Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)
Aug 24, 2003

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By Liz F. Kay and Johnathon E. Briggs
Sun Staff
Originally published August 25, 2003

The pilot of a privately owned military training jet died yesterday when it nose-dived into a small Harford County community, clipped the side of a two-story house, crashed into a back yard and exploded into flames.

The two-seat Aero L-39Z0 Albatros took off from Martin State Airport in Middle River shortly after 11 a.m. and crashed about 15 minutes later in Forest Hill, according to Harford County and Federal Aviation Administration officials.

A huge plume of black smoke after the crash attracted scores of spectators as fire officials surveyed the 50-foot debris field in the community of Victorian-style homes.

No one on the ground was injured, but entangled in the wreckage was the body of the pilot, which authorities said was burned beyond recognition.

Authorities said no one else was in the plane.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA were trying to determine the cause of the crash.

Authorities withheld the name of the pilot last night pending confirmation from dental records and blood tests, but neighbors said they believed he was real estate developer J. Robert Martin, an aviator for 30 years and owner of the nearby Forest Hill Industrial Airpark, which is surrounded by homes.

A woman answering the phone at Martin's Forest Hill home declined to comment.

"He was exceptional," said Audrey Warfield, whose husband worked for Martin. She and her husband own the 2 1/2 -story house in the 2300 block of Rockspring Road that was clipped by the Czech-built Albatros. "There was nobody who could be a better pilot than this fellow."

Moments before the crash, "we heard this extremely loud noise, a loud roar directly over our roof," said Don Weber, manager of Hanley's Fitness Center, a gym that is one of several businesses in the Forest Hill Industrial Airpark, about a half-mile from the crash site.

"A couple of people looked out the window, and they saw it suddenly go down," Weber said. "They jumped into their cars and drove to where it crashed and saw just a charred patch of ground and debris scattered all over the place."

The sleek jet, registered to Bond Jet LLC in Wilmington, Del., was flying over the airpark about 11:15 a.m. when it pulled up and fish-tailed before taking a nose dive, witnesses told authorities.

As it descended, the plane hit the trunk of a tree and clipped a corner of the Warfields' home, ripping off a section of roof and wall and exposing a rear bedroom.

Mick Ziehl, who lives ...........................
I. M. Esperto is offline  
Old 26th Aug 2003, 19:35
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Wasn't there a discussion going on about civilian pilots flying military hardware and what happens when they get in over their heads!!
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Old 26th Aug 2003, 21:36
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There was/is another thread on this. You can't tell from the newspaper article ("fish tailed" then "nose dived" ) eyewitness on local TV news (okay, not necessarily the best, but the guy looked at least somewhat knowledgeable) stated the aircraft was at a low altitude, lost power and then stalled started to spin and went in tail first.

Back to the question of ex-military aircraft and civi/low time low currency pilots. In military pilot training the curricula generally call for about 300 sylabus hours in the aircraft and a load more in simulators plus classroom work and homework before one gets into the first "fast jet". For a variety of reasons the actual hours the student has are almost invariably significantly more than the sylabus hours.

For aircraft that are jets exmilitary trainers like the L-39, Hawks, T-37s, etc it is not unreasonable for an experienced pilot with an adequate checkout and reasonable currency to be able to safely pole around in day VMC. Go from there with respect to aerobatics, etc. I would be very leary of blanket prohibitions etc, and as has been pointed out on other threads antics in these and higher performance aircraft are self limiting by the cost involved, lack of available insurance, and limited number of aircraft available.
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Old 27th Aug 2003, 00:38
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Iron city,
Not that I want to disagree with you, but I do have a couple of points.
Most student pilots don't have significantly more hours than the sylabus hours allocated. At most it would be about 15 more hours in a 200-220 hour course. Any more than that and the student most likely would be chopped.
Miiltary trainers are forgiving but not always. Don't forget that in a 200 hour sylabus the student will only be solo for about 20 hours in that time. Most of the time he would be accompanied by experienced IP who would be there to keep the student out of trouble. The L-39, Hawk T-38 are all capable of 360+Kts at low level and the time to impact is very fast even for a nose a couple of degrees below the horizon.
I guess also it would depend on what you might call an "experienced pilot"--but that would be the subject of another thread.
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Old 27th Aug 2003, 01:56
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All good points PC9. From what I have seen in U.S. military primary training (USN and USAF) they end up doing a number of reflys, warmups, etc when there hasn't been a sylabus flight within the last week or so. In some parts of the world it may always be sunny and warmer but that is not always the case in USofA. It is also a factor to have an IP in the other seat that has a real safety as well as psychological effect.

The T-38 is an altogether different and supersonic kettle of fish, so I was thinking the primay training vehicles (T-37s and the turboprops) and light jets with reasonably benign handling qualities (Hawk, some of the Aeromachi products and I'm tempted to say Alphajet but that is getting a little more complex and immediately hairy than the others. Being unfamiliar with the L-39 maybe I shouldn't have included it.

All the above said I would be very leary of a high performacne aircraft flown by anyone who did not do it fairly constantly that did not have a significant support structure of instructors, training and possibly simulator (even just a procedures trainer). And there is a big difference between being legal (3 T/Os 3 Landings in category class and type every 90 days) and being really proficient. I'd take proficient any day of the week.
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Old 27th Aug 2003, 10:25
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Not to pre-empt the issue but....

Flown an L-39, relatively benign handling qualities, but could still bite the unprepared.

Biggest worry with most of the Eastern jets is that they don't normally come with a manual worth a damn and few Western pilots or maintainers have had any experience of them. Often the manual is transalated from Czech via Russian and an African nation into pigeon ingleesh.

This means that unless the owner has gone to the expense of replacing the instruments with Western equivalents the cockpit can be quite unfamiliar and it can be difficult to pick up info in a hurry. God knows what it is like for the engineers!

Bad business,

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Old 27th Aug 2003, 21:22
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Ghost: Your post is right on the issue. It is very unfortunate that anyone should loose their life in an aircraft accident, and doubly so if the accident is avoidable, and I don't mean by sitting on the porch and watching.

A quick search of the FAA Registry shows about 230 of these a/c in several marks and models in the U.S. registry alone. It would seem reasonable for the owners/operators to get together and write a decent pilot's manual. Good project for a test pilot school student.

Now about the engineers.....
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