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FAA to investigate fatal ultralight plane crash

Gwinnett County pilot was killed; engine trouble suspected

POSTED: July 6, 2008 5:01 a.m.
/For The Times

Firefighters from three White County fire stations work to put out the fire resulting from the crash of an ultralight plane Wednesday morning at White County Airport. Jim Lanier of Sugar Hill died in the crash.

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The Federal Aviation Administration has been called in to investigate the cause of an ultralight plane crash Wednesday morning in White County that killed the pilot.

The man later was identified as Jim Lanier of Sugar Hill.

John O’Brien, chief deputy with the White County Sheriff’s Office, said the accident happened at about 9 a.m. at the privately owned White County Airport.

"He (the pilot) had just taken off," O’Brien said. "Best we’ve been able to determine, he seemed to have some sort of engine trouble."

He said people living nearby heard the crash and called 911.

No one on the ground was hurt.

Ana Newberry, spokeswoman for the White County Fire Department, said Lanier belonged to the Georgia Mountain Flyers, a group that operates the airport.

Newberry said a member of the Flyers group told her Lanier was an experienced pilot and that his plane, built approximately five years ago, had been in good condition.

Crews from three White County fire stations responded to the scene at the airport, a small landing field located southeast of Cleveland and north of the Mossy Creek community.

Newberry said according to witnesses, the plane’s engine sputtered before the ultralight crashed and exploded on impact.

It was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, but no nearby structures were damaged.

The landing strip is surrounded by residential streets with names such as Runway Drive, Cessna Drive and Taxi Way Lane.

The neighborhood attracts people who enjoy flying small, experimental aircraft because they’re able to taxi directly from their homes onto the runway.

Because of the popularity of the ultralight hobby, crashes of this type of airplane are not unusual in White County. O’Brien said the last incident happened "a couple of years ago."

The problem with such planes, he said, is that if something goes wrong, there are no safety features to protect the pilot.

"It’s like a hang glider with an engine," he said.



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