Six air-travel incidents involving craft ranging from a U2 spy plane to a Braniff jetliner have left five people dead and 14 injured in five states.
In the worst of Tuesday's incidents, four people were killed after their twin-engine private jet plowed into a hillside in West Paterson, N.J., and exploded shortly after takeoff, narrowly missing two homes and an apartment complex.The airplane disintegrated on impact shortly after 3 a.m. in a wooded area between two homes about 1,000 yards off Route 46, a few hundred feet short of Rose Manor Estates, a complex of 900 apartments, police said.
"It is absolutely incredible that more people were not killed," police Chief Joseph Renne said. "This could have been an utter catastrophe."
The jet took off from Teterboro Airport and was headed for Morristown when it crashed "in an almost vertical direction," National Transportation Safety Board investigator Frank Ghiorsi said.
The identities of the dead, two male crewman and two women passengers, were withheld pending notification of relatives. The Lear 35 jet was operated by United Executive Jet Inc. of Chesterfield, Mo., the NTSB said.
In the second fatal accident, a veteran aircraft stuntman was killed in Pontiac, Mich., after his single-engine experimental aircraft crashed.
Harold Chappell, 48, was test flying the aircraft he had built at home when "a wing possibly separated" over Oakland-Pontiac Airport and the plane plunged to the ground about 3:30 p.m., an airport official said. He died four hours later at Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital's emergency room.
Eight people were injured after their twin-engine turbo jet commuter plane crashed and caught fire, shortly after takeoff from Oklahoma's Lawton Municipal Airport.
A high-flying U-2 spy plane was forced to make a crash landing in Florida when it experienced problems with its landing gear but the pilot escaped injury in the mishap, officials said.
The plane landed on its belly on runway 20 at Patrick Air Force Base about 10:23 a.m., a base spokesman said.
The plane was on a routine training mission at the time of the mishap, according to an Air Force statement. The U-2 was assigned to Detachment 5, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Patrick.
Meanwhile, a Braniff Airways jet carrying about 70 passengers ran into "heavy turbulence" that slightly injured six people minutes before the plane landed safely at Orlando Internatinal Airport, a spokesman said.
All six, which included two flight attendants, were treated at area hospitals and then released.
In New Orleans, the pilot of a Salvadoran jetliner with 41 people aboard was forced to make an emergency landing in a grassy field beside an aerospace plant after the plane's two engines failed in a rainstorm.
None of the 36 passengers and five crew members aboard the TACA International Airlines jet was injured in the landing.