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MAN DIES IN VAN NUYS AIRPORT CRASH : PILOT TRIED LANDING IN DENSE FOG.

Byline: Yvette Cabrera Daily News Staff Writer

A pilot trying to land his twin-engine Cessna at fog-shrouded Van Nuys Airport was killed early Thursday after the plane missed the runway, crashed nose-down and then skidded into six parked planes.

The plane, with the pilot's body inside the cockpit, was found at daybreak - four hours after the crash, authorities said. Nobody had heard the crash, they said.

Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials were investigating the delay in discovering the crash.

However, Van Nuys Airport Manager Ron Kochevar said the fog's density - at times providing zero visibility - prevented airport police from regularly patrolling the airfield and it was only about 5:30 a.m. that they encountered the crash in a ramp area adjacent to a taxiway in the center of the airport.

``Normally we would have detected that much sooner because they make regular checks,'' said Kochevar. ``When it's low visibility as it was this morning you're a hazard out there. You can't see so why do it? You run the risk of causing an accident so we don't do it.''

The air control tower is not manned during late-night hours, but the airport remains open for incoming flights 24 hours a day.

Van Nuys Airport police, who log all landings and takeoffs, heard the pilot, 32-year-old Robert Olson of Medford, Ore., announce his landing about 1:20 a.m., when there was zero visibility, said Pat Freudenburg of the airport's Media Relations Office.

``Nobody heard or saw anything when it happened at 1:20,'' said Freudenburg. Not even employees at a nearby 24-hour business heard the crash, added Kochevar, who suspects the fog may have muffled the noise.

At approximately 5:30 a.m., an airport police officer making perimeter checks discovered the plane crash after which the airport notified NTSB investigators who arrived three hours later, said Freudenburg.

Olson was an employee of AEX Inc., also known as Air Express, an air carrier service company based in Tempe, Ariz. According to the company's president, Olson originally intended to arrive in Burbank on his daily flight from Las Vegas to Burbank.

``We are at loss to know what occurred,'' said Gale Webb, president of AEX. ``He's a highly experienced pilot.''

The pilot had made these cargo runs five days a week for about a month and would deliver checks and other bank documents that were picked up at the airport by others, said Webb, whose 10-year-old company provides air cargo service to banking, financial and business sectors to four western states.

Olson requested to land at Van Nuys because of poor weather in Burbank, said FAA's Western Pacific Region spokesman Mitch Barker.

Because the plane was attempting to land between the hours of 10:45 p.m. and 5:45 a.m. when the Van Nuys Airport control tower is closed, the FAA's Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control in San Diego communicated with Olson, giving him weather conditions and clearance to approach the airport, said Barker.

What happened after that remains unclear.

``The indication I have is that the pilot reported that he had Van Nuys Airport in sight and the wreckage was discovered at 5:30,'' said Barker. ``We don't tell them if they can land or if they can't. The pilot is responsible for what they do with their aircraft, we give them clearance to approach an airport.''

After an initial investigation, NTSB officials reported that the Cessna 310 had skidded several hundred feet after hitting the taxiway, just east of a runway on which it was supposed to land, said airport spokeswoman Stacy Geere.

``The nose gear collapsed when the aircraft touched down and both propellers struck the ground when its wings collapsed,'' said Geere.

With its front section torn away, exposing the cockpit, the Cessna lay in a crumpled heap in an area near airport hangars. There, investigators continued to examine the wreckage, which was not burned.

``There was fuel in the tank, why there wasn't an explosion I don't know,'' said Kochevar. ``It's kind of unusual in my experience that there was not a fire but indeed that was the case. There wasn't a fire, but there was enough fuel that he could have made it to Fox Field airport in Lancaster.''

Investigators in the NTSB's Gardena office said it was too soon to say whether the fog was a contributing factor in the crash. They said it might be months before the cause is confirmed.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO (color) Officials inspect the wreckage of a twin-engine Cessna that crashed at Van Nuys Airport early Thursday, killing the pilot.

Bob Halvorsen/Daily News
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 15, 1996
Words:774
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