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Pilot mistakes subdivision for runway

November 23, 2011, 06:47 pm

A 23-year-old pilot student recently made a crash landing in a subdivision in Pasco, Florida, when he mistook a road for a runway.

The pilot of the plane told the Pasco Sheriff's Department that the plane's GPS system said Citation Road in the Pasco Trails subdivision was a landing strip at Pilot Country Airport, which is actually three miles away from the crash site. The plane hit mailboxes, small trees and a fence on its decent, but no one was injured during the crash, WTSP 10 Tampa Bay reported.

In an interview with Tampa Bay Online, Dave Torro, who has lived in Pasco Trails for 20 years, said the community is used to the sound of low-flying planes but he has never seen an aircraft attempt to land in a street. Torro said he was backing out of his driveway with his 11-year-old daughter when the plane flew past him and continued down the street.

"We watched mailbox after mailbox fly into the air," Torr told the news provider.

When the plane crashed and finally stopped bombarding the residential neighborhood, Torro said the pilot was very upset, as he thought he was landing in Pilot Country Airport. Torro informed the pilot that he had landed the aircraft in Pasco Trails, a gated equestrian community, and not an airport. While the pilot was able to exit the aircraft safely with no apparent injuries, there was significant damage to the plane as well as residential property, the source reported. Pilot insurance would help cover these repair bills in the event of a crash.

Torro said the pilot was a Chinese national and did not speak English well.

"He said, 'We land here all the time... this is Pilot Country.' And I'm like, 'No. It's not. This is a horse community and you got them mixed up,'" Torro told Tampa Bay Online.

The local news reported the pilot was flying a Cirrus from Sanford, and Federal Aviation Administration officials are continuing to investigate the crash. An FAA spokesperson said the GPS system the pilot was using was appropriate for the aircraft, ruling out any inappropriate navigational equipment as the cause of the crash. The plane belongs to Boston Aviation Leasing of Bedford, Massachusetts.

This is not the first time a crash has occurred near Pilot Country Airport. Tampa Bay Online said the airport's runway is lined with residential homes, and many residents own their own airplanes and use the runway, and other private planes use it as well. This can lead to confusion as well as property damage if something goes wrong in the landing.

In May, a single engine 1980 Piper Saratoga missed the runway at Pilot Country Airport and crashed into a nearby ditch with two men escaping unharmed. However, in October 2009, a different single-engine Piper plane crashed into the airport leaving two men critically injured, the source reported. 

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