Flight instructor killed in Laytonsville plane crash -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected on July 23, 2012. An explanation follows the story.

Frank Schmidt, a well-known pilot and flight instructor, was killed Monday night in a small plane crash at Davis Airport in Laytonsville.

Airport Manager Alicia Harvey said Schmidt, 79, had been a flight instructor for more than 40 years, and was the former manager of the small airport, near Md. 108.

Schmidt had been on a “check ride” with another pilot, practicing takeoffs and landings, airport workers said.

“The plane touched down on the runway and then took off,” said Dennis Stiles, a mechanic who witnessed the flight practice.

“It got to an altitude of about 200 feet and appeared to lose power; the engine ceased to run,” he said.

Stiles said the plane rolled over to the right and then turned over on its top before it flew toward the ground, and he lost sight of it.

The pilots had been practicing “touch and gos” for 30 to 45 minutes when he heard a backfire, which he said is not uncommon in the heat, Stiles said.

Harvey identified the surviving pilot as Allen Rothenberg, another experienced pilot who is in his 80s. It was not clear who was flying the plane at the time.

Rothenberg was taken by helicopter to a trauma center, and Harvey said she spoke to him Tuesday morning, and he told her he is going to be OK.

In 2004, the Gazette wrote an article about then-74-year-old Rothenberg of Rockville, who was preparing for a journey around the perimeter of the lower 48 states in a tiny two-seat plane with limited instrumentation.

Harvey and other airport personnel confirmed the pilot involved in Monday night’s crash was the same individual.

She said the 1964 Beechcraft Musketeer crashed about 100 yards from the end of the runway.

Rescue crews responded to a report of a small plane crash in the 15300 block of Hawkins Creamery Road, near Pocahontas Drive, around 7:20 p.m.

Peter Knudson, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman, said its investigation will involve several phases.

On the scene, an investigator will document the site and the wreckage, speak with witnesses, and check with the Federal Aviation Administration on communication with air traffic controllers, radar data, weather information and the flight plan.

The NTSB tries to have a preliminary report posted within 10 business days. This report won’t point to the cause, but will document facts regarding the aircraft, pilot certification and medical information.

A report, where all details are thoroughly analyzed normally takes several months, and then the determination of probable cause, especially when a fatality is involved, usually takes about one year.

On Tuesday afternoon, members of the Laytonsville District Fire Department were on the scene to remove the plane’s tail, so that it could be taken from the woods. Laytonsville-based Ruppert Landscaping offered equipment and operators to pull the wreckage out of the woods.

Davis Airport, which averages about 10 landings a day on its single paved runway, has been in operation since 1941.

thogan@gazette.netAn earlier version of this story misspelled Allen Rothenberg’s name.