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"Report details airport mishap"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Report details airport mishap 
Incident came during pilot's first solo flight 
By Mark Langlois 
The Danbury (CT) News-Times

DANBURY -- The federal investigation of a Dec. 11 airplane accident at
Danbury Municipal Airport revealed the pilot had just 17 hours of experience
when she flew her solo flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration accident report, which The News-Times
sought through the federal Freedom of Information act Dec. 15, arrived in
Danbury on Jan. 19. The accident report said Janet Julia O'Brien drove her
certified flight instructor, Kelly McCartney, to the tower at Danbury
Municipal Airport at 2 p.m. Dec. 11. From there, McCartney was planning to
watch O'Brien take her first solo flight. O'Brien then taxied over to the
runway, and took off from the airport's runway 35.

The pair had already flown for between 1.2 and two hours that day, making 15
landings, according to the report.

O'Brien flew a pattern to land on runway 35 and she landed hard, the report
states. Her headset fell off, and the airplane, a Piper Warrior, bounced a
second time on the runway. The second landing knocked the front wheel off
the single-engine airplane.

O'Brien took off and was warned by an air traffic controller in the tower
her front wheel was missing. The tower told her to fly a pattern around the
airport at 1,700 feet while airport workers cleared debris from the runway. 

A right-hand pattern, which O'Brien was instructed to make, is a series of
right-hand, right-angle turns that form a rectangle near the airport. The
pilot takes off down the runway, reaches a safe altitude, makes a right turn
and then, after a few seconds, makes a second right turn to fly a line
parallel to the runway. The pilot then makes another right turn, and
another, and then lands on the runway.

"At approximately 14:30, after completing her third loop in a right-hand
pattern around Runway 35, she was cleared to land Runway 35. 

"Ms. O'Brien made the touchdown on the numbers and came to a stop before the
intersecting runway. The instructor asked Ms. O'Brien if she was OK and
instructed her to shut down the aircraft. 

"Ms. O'Brien egressed the aircraft on her own. She reported she was not
injured," the FAA report said.

The report said the aircraft was owned by O'Brien's husband, whom it did not
identify. It did not give any details about O'Brien or about McCartney, the
certified flight instructor.

McCartney could not be reached for comment, nor could O'Brien.

The report said O'Brien is required to take additional training with a
flight instructor before attempting her next solo.

"It's really up to the flight instructor when a student is ready," said
Kathleen Vasconcelos, a spokeswoman with the Airplane Owners and Pilots
Association of Virginia. Vasconcelos said a student pilot is allowed to solo
when the student has mastered basic flying moves, including flying at slow
speeds, landing, taking off, turning and others.

"Some people have 10 hours, some have 20 or 25. It's not a hard-and-fast
rule," she said.

A search of aviation Web sites says 17 hours is a typical amount of flying
time for a student pilot before he or she solos. FAA rules say the student
can be cleared to solo after meeting a number of requirements. They
generally involve demonstrating skills with flying the airplane.

The report detailed damage to the aircraft. It said the aircraft nose wheel
was recovered on the runway with a bent rim.

The axle was bent, and the axle bolt was broken. The wheel-bearing cage was
broken and bearings were missing. The engine firewall was damaged and the
engine mounts, nose landing gear strut and propeller blades were bent.


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