Pilot mistakes road for runway at Cottonwood Airport, hits fence

Cottonwood plane crash

Credit: Cottonwood Police Department

An airplane hit a fence at Cottonwood Municipal Airport Monday night.


by Jennifer Thomas


Posted on May 7, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Updated Thursday, May 9 at 12:33 PM

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COTTONWOOD, Ariz. -- A pilot was injured in a plane crash after he mistook a road for a runway at Cottonwood Municipal Airport Monday night and hit a fence.

A nearby resident called the Cottonwood Police Department and reported hearing an airplane flying low then a loud crashing sound at about 11:20 p.m.

Police officers located an airplane in the 100 block of South Airpark Road. Police spokesman Sgt. Cody Savage said the plane had collided with a portion of the fence bordering the road and the airport.

The pilot, Kelly Thompson, 42, of Oklahoma, told police that he didn't think the runway lights were functioning properly and thought Airpark Road was his runway. By the time he realized it was a roadway, he could not pull up to avoid hitting the fence.

Although Thompson was walking around on his own at the scene, he sustained two broken vertebrae in his neck and was treated at the Flagstaff Medical Center.

Thompson was the only person on board the plane.

Savage said Cottonwood Fire Department personnel contained a fuel leak from the airplane and verified the electrical system was deactivated.

The Cottonwood Police Department assisted the Federal Aviation Administration with the investigation Tuesday morning.

Savage said due to inconsistencies in the airplane paperwork, the late hours of flight and the fact that the crash happened parallel to the runway, a K-9 was brought in to check the plane. The K-9 did not alert on the aircraft and no illegal substance was found.

The FAA continues to investigate the cause of the crash.