Pilot injured after plane crashes in Warner Springs - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Pilot injured after plane crashes in Warner Springs

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WARNER SPRINGS (CNS) - A small single-engine aircraft used to tow gliders into the air crashed near the Warner Springs Gliderport Saturday, and a man was flown by helicopter to a hospital with moderate injuries, authorities said.

The small “tow plane,” a Piper Pawnee, crashed about 12:15 p.m. Saturday southwest of the Warner Springs Gliderport, which is at 31930 State Route 79 in Warner Springs in northeast San Diego County, Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser said.

The pilot of the plane was the only person aboard the aircraft and sustained injuries that were moderate and non-life threatening, Bortisser said. He was taken to a hospital by a medical helicopter because of the remoteness of the location.

Bret Willat of Sky Sailing, the company that operates the gliderport, identified the pilot only as Jim, and said he was an experienced pilot who worked at a glider port in Hemet before working at Warner Springs Gliderport for the last four years.

“He never even got 100 feet in the air,” Willat said. “He was probably only going about 55 to 65 miles per hour because we don't go very fast when we launch the gliders.”

Willat said the pilot had a 200-foot rope between his tow plane and the glider, and shortly after take off the glider got out of position behind the tow plane, lifting the plane's tail more than the pilot could correct. Willat said before the tow plane crashed, the glider was able to release and land safely.

“The Piper Pawnee is the type of plane you want to be in if you crash,” Willat said. “It's a beefy, strong plane.”

The Piper Pawnee was a plane made for crop dusting, Willat said. According to airliners.net, the last model was made in 1982. The website said it was one of the first and most successful light aircrafts built for agricultural spraying and dusting and is still popular as an agricultural plane and tow plane for gliders.

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