FALMOUTH — Federal investigators worked Sunday to determine the cause of a fiery single-engine plane crash that killed one person and severely injured two others as the craft attempted to land Saturday morning at Falmouth Airpark.
The plane narrowly missed a home at 36 Quimby Lane, part of an enclave of aviation enthusiasts whose houses feature access to the runway. The fire that engulfed the plane came within feet of the Quimby Lane home.
“I’m a gatherer of facts, conditions, and circumstances,” said Paul Cox, an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board, who was at the scene examining the smoldering, twisted remains of the plane.
Cox declined to speculate on the cause, and said a preliminary report on the crash is expected in about 10 days. The final results of the investigation could take as long as a year to be released.
On a stretch of pavement near the crash site, bloody prints of bare feet were still visible leading from the charred dirt and trees, apparently from one victim who fled the plane.
According to the FAA, the plane is registered to Bobo Aviation LLC in Guilford, Conn. The company was registered with the Connecticut secretary of the state’s office in March, according to that office’s online corporate database. A company representative could not be reached for comment.
Authorities have not identified the occupants of the plane.
Ed Stadelman, president of the Airpark Association, said the 60-year-old runway, at 2,300 feet, is shorter than those at some other facilities that support similar small aircraft. But Stadelman said the length is within safety requirements for the planes that are permitted to fly in and out.
Factors at the airport that could complicate a landing include roughly 50-foot trees that bookend the asphalt strip. At 40 feet wide, the tarmac has more space than the small aircraft need to safely come down, but landing requires an extra degree of precision, Stadelman said.
“If you’re not based here, you’re not allowed to land here at night,” Stadelman said, an example of restrictions enforced because of the strip’s dimensions. “We have a reason for it. It is a little bit tight and we just don’t want people to have a problem. If you land over in Hyannis, you have a 150-foot-wide runway.”
Alexander Wolf, the head instructor with the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association, said the SC22 craft that went down contains several computerized instruments that pilots must monitor and manage — such as two global positioning systems — but on the whole, the plane is relatively easy to fly. The owners association helps investigate crashes, Wolf said.
“There is a lot of automation and there is a lot to help a pilot out,” Wolf said.
In good conditions, the 310-horsepower CR22 can take off in less than 1,000 feet, he said, but added that those performance figures don’t have much bearing on the landing process.
“It’s a very high-performance aircraft and requires very specialized training to get it to perform at that level,” said Wolf. “It’s the systems management that requires a lot of study and preparation.”
Stadelman said the occupants of the craft, who are not based at the Airpark, were not required to file a flight plan because federal rules do not demand it in fair weather.
Wind conditions are another variable, he said. Crosswinds can change once a craft is below the airfield’s tree line, but Stadelman said that factor is not unusual.
“Yes, it does happen here, but it also happens in other places for other reasons,” he said of the changing wind conditions. “Whatever the crosswind component would be, that’s on the crew aboard the aircraft to know and understand.”
He added: “Every landing is different.”