Loud bangs signaled fatal Ultralight crash

8:06 PM, Sep 16, 2012   |    comments
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Spring Hill, Florida -- People who live around Pilot Country Airport say it looked like 53-year-old William George Athey was flying at an unusually low altitude Sunday morning when his Ultralight plane crashed into power lines just short of the airport's runway. Athey was killed upon impact, and electricity was shut off to the surrounding area for hours. 

From the back deck of his house, Dan Ludwick could see the aircraft flying around the area before it ducked out of sight.

"A few minutes later, I heard two loud bangs," he said. "I told a friend of mine that's either a semi backfiring, or I hope to God he didn't hit the power lines."

Unfortunately, that is what happened, as the single-seat plane hit lower power lines, and later fell to the ground.

"The only eyewitness account was that the ultraplane appeared to be fine as it was on approach to Pilot Country and then hit into the wires," says Doug Tobin of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, which is leading the investigation into the crash.

Fellow pilot Lacy Kaye said Athey was new to the airport. She had just met him last week.

"He's a real nice guy, real nice guy," she recalled. "It's heartbreaking. I don't know anyone in the aviation community that doesn't have a heartfelt emotion that goes on here when they hear a pilot losing their life."

Some members of the local aviation community also say the power lines have been an issue for a long time with pilots, and something should be done about them. 

"The power lines have been an issue for a long time," says Dan Ludwick, Jr. "Hopefully now that something has happened, the power lines will be buried down underground so this won't be an issue again."

Ultralight planes are often made from kits, and usually seat just one person.

Sadly, across the Tampa Bay area, we've seen several crashes involving Ultralight aircraft in just the last few months. In June, wind gusts flipped an Ultralight into the water just off the southern tip of St. Pete. No one was killed in that incident. It occurred just days after a crash in Plant City killed a 79-year-old pilot as he was landing at Blackwater Creek Flight Park.

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