New Details Released on Single Engine Plane Crash in Grand Traverse County

We’re learning new details about Tuesday night’s single-engine plane crash in Traverse City.

The single-engine Cessna, a Skyhawk four-seater, is owned by Northwestern Michigan College. An instructor and student pilot from the NMC Flight School were on board at the time. There are no serious injuries following Tuesday night’s crash, but there are still lots of questions. And there are many reasons to be thankful that the situation didn’t turn out differently.

Plane Crash Day TwoThe FAA arrived early Wednesday morning to take over the investigation. The scene was cleared by early Wednesday afternoon as the plane was hauled off to a secure hangar.

Traverse City Police Capt. Keith Gillis says, “We’re very thankful that no one was injured and we’re thankful that no one was in the way of the plane when it landed.” The single-engine Cessna bounced in the grass at the Civic Center ball fields before crashing through a fence.

Ann Campbell of Traverse City was nearby at the Civic Center and heard the plane crash through the fencing. “My first thought was, thank God he hit the fence because that did stop him. You know, he could have hurt people that were in the pavilion.”  Capt. Gillis agrees. “Obviously the civic center at 5:30 at night, there were probably a lot of people. And we were very fortunate that the two people in the plane were not injured, nor anybody on the ground was injured. There could have been a soccer game going on or a baseball game going on at this particular time, and we would be having a lot different conversation about this whole incident.”

Army Medic Blake Williams saw the crash and rushed to help. “The student, you know, had the door open and was kind of moving his way out. But they both looked, you know, dazed and confused, obviously.

“They were obviously, adrenaline is rushing. You know, they just crash landed a plane,” he added. Traverse City Police were able to get statements from both men. Capt. Gillis says, “Based on statements from the instructor and the student pilot that there was a possible engine failure. We’ll know more once the FAA looks into possible mechanical issues.

“They’ll do a test on the plane, they’ll look at the records of service on that particular plane. That’s all handled through the FAA,” Capt. Gillis added.

Blake Williams says he was impressed by the way the student and pilot handled the crash landing. “Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, afterwards, I reanalyzed everything and it seemed as though they did everything that they did perfectly, perfectly fine, and their training kicked in. So I think that they’re both amazing pilots, and they did everything that they could. And thankfully, no one was hurt… So I think they made some pretty less last second split second decisions. And did extremely well.”

An NMC spokeswoman says standard procedure would require that if a student is piloting the plane and there is an emergency, the instructor would take over control of the plane. A full report from the FAA and the NTSB could take up to a year.

Stay with northern Michigan’s news leader for updates on the FAA investigation.