Two men practicing touch-and-go takeoffs near Northeast Philadelphia Airport died today when their small plane crashed and then burst into flames.
The control tower had just told the student pilot to make a right turn, but he apparently made the turn too steep, and "went into what we call a 'stall-spin,' " Herbert Hortman, owner of Hortman Aviation Services Inc., a flight school and rental company that owns the plane, said in a telephone interview.
Hortman said the student, whom he described as above average, was making final preparations for his flight test. The instructor was a veteran pilot and had been with the company for two years, he added.
There were no signs of mechanical failure or other problems before the crash, Hortman said.
Hortman Aviation has been a fixture at the Northeast airport for decades. According to its Web site, the company has a fleet of 32 late-model planes.
The identities of the pilot and instructor were being withheld pending notification of relatives, said Jeff Moran, spokesman for the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office, and would not be released before tomorrow.
Federal Aviation Administration officials said the two-seat Grumman AA-1C Trainer crashed into a cargo trailer near a loading dock in the rear of a TJ Maxx warehouse, a large building settled deep in an industrial park between Red Lion Road and the northern edge of the airport's runways.
Philadelphia police said no one on the ground was injured when the plane crashed about noon.
According to Jim Peters, an FAA spokesman in Jamaica, N.Y., the pilot of the plane - a single-engine fixed-wing plane manufactured in 1977 - was practicing takeoffs and landings when it crashed at 11:58 a.m.
Peters said the pilot did one successful touch-and-go on Runway 24, the longer of the runways, at the northeast end of the 1,153-acre airport.
Because of a wind shift, Peters said, the pilot moved to Runway 33, which approaches from the southeast. The pilot made one touch-and-go on 33 and was going to do a second. Peters said there was a discussion between pilot and control tower to orient the plane to the air-traffic pattern, and then the crash occurred.
The National Weather Service reported that the wind was blowing at around 10 m.p.h. at the time of the crash.
Police said the plane appeared to touch down in the rear parking lot of the TJ Maxx warehouse and then skidded into a line of trailers and burst into flames.
Officials from TJX Cos., the Framingham, Mass., company that owns the Marmaxx Group division and the warehouse in Northeast Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment about the extent of property damage.