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NTSB probes plane crash; Victim was `good pilot,' says friend.

Byline: Bradford L. Miner

SPENCER - A relentless wind whipped at the thin snow cover on Andrews Field yesterday as the National Transportation Safety Board began investigating the crash that killed a popular local pilot, aircraft mechanic and airport owner the day before.

Gregg E. Andrews, 50, of 204 Paxton Road, died Wednesday shortly before 9 a.m. when the single-engine Piper he was flying clipped the tops of trees as he was approaching the runway at the north end of the field.

For much of the day, the two fluorescent windsocks near the airport office and hangars were ballooned out by the chill wind that buffeted a dozen or so small aircraft tugging against tie-downs on an apron just off the runway.

There was little activity at the site at noon yesterday, but for a single Massachusetts State Police cruiser, lights flashing, parked along Paxton Road watching over the crumpled, snow-covered fuselage.

A longtime friend, fellow pilot and snowmobiling companion, Harvey A. Shine, 63, of Oxford, said yesterday he hasn't a clue why the Piper PA-28 crashed.

"I do know this. Gregg was as good a pilot as there was, and it was clear he was doing his best to make it back to the runway. He almost made it," Mr. Shine said.

According to the Worcester district attorney's office, Mr. Andrews had taken off, and was heading to Fitchburg Municipal Airport shortly before the crash occurred.

James Peters, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said yesterday his agency had handed off the investigation to the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency charged with investigating serious and fatal transportation accidents.

There was little activity at the crash site at noon yesterday, but three unidentified men in a hangar near the airport office said investigators were due back later in the afternoon.

"We have nothing to say. The NTSB is in charge," one man said.

Mr. Peters said because Spencer Airport is a private facility, whether the airport remains open or not is a business decision that will be left up to the family.

"As long as the runway remains cleared of snow, it may continue to be used as an airport," he said.

Mr. Shine, owner of the Small Car Clinic in Spencer, said he hopes there is no rush to judgment in the disposition of the airport.

"I've had a plane up there for quite a while. I can't imagine that Gregg's wife is even close to thinking about the future. Every member of the Andrews family is distraught as it is," he said.

"Hopefully after some time passes, she'll regroup and make an informed decision later on," Mr. Shine said.

The mechanic said that Ed Urbanowski gives flying lessons at the airport and in the past has taken over during those times that Mr. Andrews was out of town.

"I guess it's possible that he could look after it for a while. I just hope there's no snap decision. This is a great little airfield, a good place to learn how to fly, and for the past 20 years it's been a great place to park my plane," Mr. Shine said.

The pilot said he would not be at all surprised if it was that type of a field where retired Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger first learned to fly.

"When you're capable of the `Miracle on the Hudson,' you've got more than just skill going for you," Mr. Shine said.


CUTLINE: An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board, left, and a representative from Piper Aircraft examine the destroyed airplane at the Spencer Airport yesterday.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 24, 2010
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