Plane crashes at Deer Valley Airport

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Only minor injuries were reported after a small plane crashed and caught fire at Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix late Tuesday morning.

According to Ian Gregor with the Federal Aviation Administration, a single-engine Piper PA28 crashed on the east end of the airport near Seventh Street and Deer Valley Road at approximately 11:30 a.m.

The plane became fully engulfed in flames after crashing.

Firefighters responded and doused the flames.

Gregor said it was an instructional flight and the accident occurred while the pilot was practicing touch-and-go maneuvers. A touch-and-go is a common procedure in which the pilot lands, continues rolling and takes off again.

Gregor said local authorities reported that there were three people from TransPac Aviation Academy on board the plane. They said one person suffered a minor injury and the other two were not injured.

"The pilot, whoever it was, did a fantastic job, in my opinion," said Barry Caraway, a pilot at Deer Valley, who is familiar with the type of Piper that crashed.

"This is a very difficult plane to get in and out of," Caraway said. "There's only one door and the pilot doesn't have his own door."

Witnesses heard the plane sputtering and said it appeared to be having engine problems before it crashed and caught fire.

"From what I understand, one of the guys went back and was able to get the guy in the back seat out, which was a heroic event because the plane was burning at that time," Caraway said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

According to the FAA, TransPac Aviation Academy has a record of at least 20 prior incidents or accidents since receiving its flight school certificate in 2007. Three involved fatalities.

There is also a record of a violation in 2009 involving quality of training. A correction letter was issued, which is on the low end of the enforcement scale, according to a spokesman for the FAA.

TransPac declined to comment on the past accidents.

Deer Valley Airport is considered one of the busiest general aviation airports in the nation.

Statement from TransPac Aviation Academy:

"One of TransPac Aviation Academy's aircraft landed off runway near 7th Street and Deer Valley Road this afternoon.

"All three crew members evacuated the aircraft safely with only very minor injuries. The aircraft apparently suffered significant damage.

"TransPac is cooperating in full with the FAA and NTSB as they complete their normal investigation. However, Stephen Goddard, President & CEO, would like to acknowledge the fine job our crew members did in safely executing an emergency landing – something we practice and prepare for each and every day.

"The safety and security of our instructors and students is TransPac's highest priority."