Small plane crash kills two as fly-in set to start in Oregon

One of the people killed was Ben Davidson, chief pilot for a museum of antique planes and cars.

By Andrew Selsky / Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. — As dozens of horrified pilots and other aviation enthusiasts looked on, a small plane took off Friday from an airfield in the scenic Oregon town of Hood River then plummeted to the ground after its engine cut out, killing the pilot and his passenger.

The crash occurred as an annual “fly-in,” where hundreds gather to view planes, many of them antiques, was about to start.

One of the people killed was Ben Davidson, chief pilot for a museum of antique planes and cars that hosts the event, Hood River County sheriff’s Deputy Joel Ives said. Also killed was Matthew Titus of Turlock, California, who was piloting the Super Cub airplane, Ives said.

Ives said the two men were apparently related.

The Piper PA-18 Super Cub is a two-seat, single-engine monoplane, introduced in 1949 by Piper Aircraft.

Witnesses said the plane probably didn’t get more than 100 feet off the ground when the engine cut out, almost caught, and then cut out again, Ives said. The weather was clear, with scattered clouds and light winds.

Davidson was chief pilot for the Western Antique Airplane & Automobile Museum, which hosts the Hood River Fly-In, being held on Saturday and Sunday.

A woman who answered the phone at the museum, located alongside Hood River’s Ken Jernstedt Airfield, said she could not comment, and hung up. Ives said the museum owned the crashed plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were notified, and an FAA representative, who may have been off duty and happened to be nearby, already visited the scene, Ives said.

Video footage showed the yellow airplane had broken into pieces upon impact. The rear fuselage was intact, bearing the logo of the U.S. Air Force from 1947.

“The main cockpit was extremely mangled,” said Ives, who got to the scene after fire department and emergency medical services arrived. No one on the ground was hit, he said.

Hundreds of people flock to the airfield, located less than three miles from the Columbia River, for the Hood River Fly-In.

“There are lots of fly-ins. Pilots fly in with their personal planes and line them up for viewing by the public,” Ives said.

The event features bi-plane rides, a Lions Club Pancake Breakfast, pilot seminars, aircraft restoration workshops and book signings. One of the books is “Fumes and a Prayer: How to Live at the Edge and Still Be Home for Dinner,” by Dennis Bauer.

The fly-in is still planned, the museum indicated on its Facebook site. Hours after the crash, it posted photos of some of the planes that have arrived. It made no mention of the crash.

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