Pilot hurt in crash of aircraft

He took off, lost control of powered parachute

`We're thankful it wasn't worse'

Balto. County man listed in serious condition


August 24, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

A powered parachute crashed in a field minutes after takeoff last weekend at a private Carroll County airport, injuring the 55-year-old pilot, authorities said yesterday.

About 7:10 p.m. Sunday, Geoffrey Ronald Jobe of the 13000 block of Jarrettsville Pike in Phoenix in Baltimore County lost control of his two-seater Destiny powered parachute at the privately owned Keymar Airpark. Jobe stored his craft in an airport hangar.

He was listed in serious condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he had undergone surgery on his ankle and foot. He also had stitches on his upper lip.

A powered parachute resembles a hang glider but contains one or two seats and is motorized.

A parachute forms a wing over the pilot's seat. The craft, which is steered with foot levers, can reach a top speed of about 30 mph.

Keymar Airpark, in the 1500 block of Francis Scott Key Highway in Keymar in northwest Carroll County, is a popular takeoff point for powered parachutists because of its grassy field, airport owners Dennis and Brenda Young said.

The Youngs - both experienced powered-parachute pilots - were among those who witnessed the accident.

The steering lines of Jobe's craft became tangled, said Brenda Young, causing him to dip into a severe turn before hitting the field.

She said Jobe was wearing a helmet and seat belts and had reduced his speed on the way down so he didn't hit at full speed. The impact was hard enough to knock off the nosewheel at the front of his craft, she said.

"It smacked him in the face," Young said. It was fortunate, she said, that he didn't hit a thick iron trash bin that was standing 8 feet from where he crashed. "We're real thankful it wasn't worse."

State police and emergency medical crews responded to the accident and flew Jobe to the hospital. Troopers turned the investigation over to the Federal Aviation Administration, which declined further involvement.

"We don't investigate ultralights," said FAA spokesman Jim Peters.

FAA regulations state that ultralight craft "are not required to meet the airworthiness certification standards specified for aircraft."

Ultralights are defined as machines lighter than 254 pounds with less than 6 gallons of fuel capacity and capable of airspeeds not exceeding 55 knots.

The rule of thumb, said Carl Hattenburg, is that two-seater powered parachutes require training licenses but not single-seaters.

Hattenburg, a Mount Airy powered parachutist of seven years' experience who chronicles incidents involving the vehicles on a Web site, said pilots need to run a checklist before takeoff.

"Right at takeoff, you have all this adrenaline, and the engine is loud and distracting," said Hattenburg. "But once you're rolling at 5 mph, you should relax, take a moment and lean backwards and count steering lines and make sure they're all straight."

He and other pilots advise newcomers to take lessons before flying solo.

Jobe has been flying for a year, said his friend and fellow powered parachute enthusiast Brian Stuart of Annapolis.

Stuart was at the airport flying earlier Sunday. Dusk and dawn, he said, are the best times to fly because the winds are calmest.

Although Jobe hadn't been flying long, Stuart said he'd be surprised if Jobe hadn't checked his lines.

"It's relatively unusual," Stuart said. "One of the major safety aspects of a powered parachute is that you don't take off until all your lines are clear. It's kind of a basic tenet of the training."

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