Two perish in experimental aircraft's wreck

Marriottsville man was the pilot of plane that crashed

October 31, 2001|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Two men were killed yesterday when their experimental aircraft crashed into a field several miles southwest of Westminster, according to Maryland State Police.

The victims were identified as Jerry Ralph Norton, 63, of the 12200 block of Old Frederick Road in Marriottsville, Howard County, and James Mathew Cloeren, 57, of the 2900 block of Rocky Drive, Westminster. Norton was the aircraft's pilot, police say. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

When police answered an emergency call about 4:30 p.m., they said, they found the plane wrecked, but not burned, in a small stream. The bodies of the men were taken to the state medical examiner in Baltimore for autopsies.

The cause of the crash will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Accident Investigation, police said.

Neighbors in the immediate vicinity said they didn't know the plane had crashed until firetrucks and ambulances began arriving.

"I didn't hear a thing," said Melanie Barnes, who lives across the street from the property in the 1400 block of Dennings Road, near Route 27, where the plane crashed. "After I heard the ambulances, I ran over there, but they wouldn't let us get very close. I couldn't see anything."

June Poage, the operator of Carroll County Regional Airport, said, "When we heard there was a plane crash, we made sure all of our people were accounted for."

She had heard the aircraft was an ultralight and was surprised that it would be out so close to sundown because such planes are prohibited from flying after dark. But it was not an ultralight.

"Technically, it is an experimental plane. It's not an enclosed aircraft," said Lt. Terry L. Katz, commander of the Westminster barracks.

Experimental aircraft are different from ultralights, said Warren Morningstar, vice president of communications for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in Frederick, the largest civil aviation organization in the world with 375,000 members.

An ultralight flies under different regulations, such as limited weight, speed and amount of fuel, he said. He described an ultralight as "a sort of hang glider with a motor on it."

An experimental aircraft might be built from scrap or from a kit, he said.

The plane must be licensed, as well as the pilot, and it must pass several FAA inspections.

"You have to fly a certain amount of time over nonpopulated areas," Morningstar said of experimental planes. "The FAA is waiting for you to prove that the aircraft is airworthy."

The nation's more than 200,000 privately owned and operated aircraft were allowed back into the air Sept. 14 by Norman Y. Mineta, U.S. secretary of transportation, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sun staff writers Richard Irwin and Childs Walker contributed to this article.

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