A small rented plane, whose pilot said he was forced to circle outside restricted airspace because of a homeland security rule, ran out of fuel yesterday and crashed in a wooded area off Philadelphia Road near White Marsh, injuring the pilot and two passengers.
The single-engine, four-seater Cessna 172 left Martin State Airport yesterday morning, and was returning from a trip to Western Maryland when it crashed in the trees near Mohrs Lane about 12:15 p.m., according to pilot Dale P. Roger and Lt. Vernon S. Adamson, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Fire Department.
Roger, 41, of the 800 block of Branford Circle in Lutherville and co-worker Steve Howard were taken by ambulance to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Roger's brother, Glenn Roger, 39, of Towson, was flown by helicopter to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. The brother was released after treatment, and the others remained hospitalized overnight for observation with relatively minor injuries, authorities and relatives said.
From his bed at Bayview last night, Dale Roger said he had rented the plane about 7 a.m. yesterday from the Phoenix Aviation flight school at Martin for a day trip to Hagerstown. The trio left about 8 a.m. with a full tank of gas, which Roger says gave them about four hours of flight time.
On their way back to Martin, and after a brief stop in Frederick, Roger was preparing to enter what the Federal Aviation Administration calls an Air Defense Identification Zone - a 30-mile radius around Baltimore-Washington International Airport in airspace under 18,000 feet - about 11 a.m. when he radioed the Potomac Consolidated Terminal Radar Approach Control, or TRACON, in Virginia to get clearance.
But the controller told Roger that TRACON was unable to find his Cessna's flight plan in the system and directed him to call the flight service station in Leesburg, Va., the pilot said.
Roger said he had filed a flight plan, but FAA Eastern Region spokeswoman Holly Baker said last night that a preliminary investigation has found that neither the Leesburg flight service station nor two others in Pennsylvania and West Virginia listed Roger as having filed a flight plan for yesterday.
After trying unsuccessfully to reach the Leesburg station, Roger said, he radioed TRACON four or five times in an hour as he circled outside of the airspace, using up fuel while waiting for clearance.
"The controller told me they couldn't find me in the system," said Roger, nursing bruises and a gash to his forehead that required stitches. "I think they couldn't find my flight plan."
The homeland security measure, effective since February, requires general aviation pilots to file flight plans, among other things.
About noon, Roger said, he was cleared by TRACON and Martin airport to land. But somewhere over the Loch Raven area, about 10 to 15 miles out, the engine started to sputter and "I knew I was out of fuel," he said.
Roger then radioed a distress call alerting Martin that he was low on fuel and didn't have enough altitude to make the runway. Roger, who has had a pilot's license for a year, said he looked for the "biggest spot" to make an emergency landing, and was hovering over White Marsh when he saw an open field ringed on his left by trees.
He told his brother and co-worker, in the back and front seats, respectively, to brace themselves. The men were silent, he added.
Roger said he banked toward the wooded area and crashed nose-first into the trees, then the plane dropped to the ground.
Joe Glenn of Bel Air said he and another witness helped pull the men from the plane. He said he was driving on Pulaski Highway with his wife and daughter, saw it flying low and thought it was having engine trouble.
Glenn, 37, drove to Mohrs Lane, boarded the four-wheel all-terrain vehicle that he was hauling in his pickup truck and started to search for the plane while calling 911. He said he found it resting on its nose with its tail twisted.
Last night, Roger's wife, Kitson, described him as a conscientious pilot who never forgets to file flight plans and checks weather reports before any outing.
"He always files flight plans. He does that right before," she said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.