Two men practicing touch-and-go takeoffs at Northeast Philadelphia Airport died yesterday when their small plane crashed and burst into flame.
The control tower had just told the student pilot to make a right turn, but he apparently made too steep a turn 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.
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 said.
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, Hortman Aviation has a fleet of 32 late-model planes.
The identities of the pilot and instructor were withheld pending notification of relatives and would not be released before today, said Jeff Moran, spokesman for the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office.
Federal Aviation Administration officials said the two-seat Grumman AA-1C Trainer crashed into a cargo trailer near a loading dock at the back 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 runways.
Philadelphia police said no one on the ground was injured when the plane crashed.
According to Jim Peters, an FAA spokesman in New York City, the pilot of the plane - a single-engine fixed-wing craft 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 has its approach 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 the pilot and the 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 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 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.