The tail of a small plane nearly cocked from the ground Saturday afternoon after it plunged into a heavily wooded area in East Amherst, about 300 yards from the runway at Clarence Airport.
Emergency crews rushed to rescue the trapped pilot, Hardy Lee, 70, who was pulled from the wreckage and placed on a utility vehicle and airlifted by Mercy Flight to Erie County Medical Center with injuries not believed to be life-threatening Airport manager Fred Stanton said he was told Hardy’s lungs and blood pressure were normal. Hardy was the only person on the plane.
Saturday’s commotion was unusual for a quiet, rural airport designed for classic and antique aviation.
Stanton said he saw Hardy’s plane approach a grassy runway, then skid to the left, before swooping into a row of trees south of the airport, backing off the crossing. The nose of the plane suffered extensive damage.
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“It’s weird to watch it lean like that,” Stanton said. “It went straight into the ground.”
Hardy is described as an enthusiastic, skilled pilot from a wealthy family with a long history in the local aviation industry. Witnesses at the airport on Saturday did not know what caused Hardy to crash so close to his destination. “It doesn’t mean anything to anyone here,” the manager said. “There’s no such strategy in any book I’ve read.”
Stanton speculates on why the plane crashed: “It appears he stalled the wings.”
I and @Tsuj10 At the scene of a private jet crash in East Amherst. The pilot, the only passenger, has been airlifted to hospital. Fire crews have left and the scene has been cordoned off for investigation. pic.twitter.com/hgyuEbSPDK
– Libby March (@libbymarch) September 24, 2022
Stanton said Lee’s brother, Jay Hardy, also witnessed the crash and rushed to the pilot’s rescue, but was hurried on a rough, twisty path at the edge of the airport property, causing his truck to jam. In a ditch with a sharp turn. Turn around, forcing him to abandon the vehicle and run the last 100 yards on foot. Airport employees traveled to the site by ATVs. Getting emergency crews to the crash site was a bigger challenge, Stanton said.
“There are a lot of flashes,” he said. “They’re all over the place, but where is it.”
The incident happened around 12:45 p.m., said Svolvaer Fire Chief Scott Weir, noting that several other fire companies nearby responded. The Erie County Sheriff’s Office secured the crash site and awaits investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. Jay Hardy’s truck was successfully pulled out of the ditch.
Stanton said Lee Hardy, who started his flight from where he lives near Watkins Glen in Dundee, N.Y., said he was a friend of the pilot and had a long history with his family.
Hardy’s father, Russell, was instrumental in buying the airport for the Clarence Flying Club, Stanton said. According to AirNav.com, the small airport handles about 61 aircraft a month and features 22 sheds and hangars behind the club headquarters.
Russell, who died in 2013, built five planes and was a regular member of the small, tight-knit aviation community, Stanton said.
Stanton added that the fixed-wing, single-engine Taylorcraft that crashed today was the only one in active service of the five, saying Hardy briefly helped his father on the plane before finishing it after Russell died. this project. “He’s been flying for five or six years now,” Stanton said.