Cessna flips on Deer Valley Airport runway, 3 on board

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- A Cessna 172 with three people on board crashed at Deer Valley Airport Thursday morning.

It's not clear what happened, but video from the Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper showed the plane upside down on the runway. The nose gear appeared to have been ripped off.

That video also showed the three people, believed to be student pilots, who were on board the plane. They reportedly suffered only minor injuries. The aerial video showed them sitting on the ground by the flipped plane.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the Cessna was taking off when the pilot apparently encountered an issue.

According to a pilot who was waiting to take off and saw the crash, the little plane appeared to be coming in for a landing when its wings, which carry the fuel, dipped left and then right just before the right wing hit the ground.

"It slid sideways. It went up on the motor, broke the prop off, broke the front wheel ... off," Barry Caraway said. "It slid across the runway, and I first thought that it was coming right at us."

Caraway said the Cessna slid off the runaway. The nose hit the ground, causing the plane to flip onto its back and catch fire.

"There were flames coming out of the bottom of the engine for about maybe 15, 20, 30 seconds," he said.

Those on board scrambled to safety as soon as the flames were out.

"Everyone got out and was walking around and appeared to be fine," Caraway said, explaining that he was "no more than 100 feet" from the Cessna.

While Caraway said he couldn't be certain that the plane was landing, that's how it looked to him.

"It happened on the runway right in front of us," he said. "He was on the north side of the south runway, facing right at us."

It's not clear what caused the crash, but there reportedly was no significant wind at the time.

The Cessna 172 is a four-seat, single-engine plane. First flown in 1955, the Cessna 172 is extremely popular and is the most successful mass-produced light aircraft in history. Some 43,000 of them have been built. That's more than any other plane, and they are still in production.

Located in the area of 19th Avenue and Deer Valley Road in Phoenix, Deer Valley Airport is home to two aviation schools, Westwind School of Aeronautics and Trans Pac Aviation Academy. Those schools make up the bulk of the airport's activity.

There is no commercial service, but with 402,335 takeoffs and landings in 2009, it is the 14th busiest of all U.S. airports and the busiest general-aviation airport in the nation. It's 22nd in the world.

Phoenix Deer Valley Airport was recognized in November for its commitment to safety at the 40th Annual Aviation Safety Awards Banquet. The airport was bestowed with the Arizona Safety Award presented on behalf of the Aviation Safety Advisory Group of Arizona (ASAG).