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COVINGTON — A small plane registered to a Gainesville company crashed Tuesday afternoon at the airport in Covington, but the student pilot escaped uninjured.
Jonesboro resident Antenor Velazco, 63, was practicing takeoffs and landings in a Cessna 172 around 2:30 p.m. when he lost control and crashed in a ditch near the runway at Covington Municipal Airport, according to airport engineer Vincent Passariello. Velazco, the only person in the aircraft, is an orthopedic surgeon for Resurgens in Henry County.
Covington police detective Daniel Seals told The Covington News Velazco was finishing up work on his pilot's license Tuesday, going east to west down the runway.
"During one of the touch-and-gos, (he) lost control of the aircraft," Seals said. "He went off the runway, spun around at least once, came to rest, caught on fire. He was able to get out, which is good. The aircraft obviously now has been put out."
The right wing detached during the crash, causing the plane to catch fire, but the blaze was extinguished by firefighters, Passariello said.
Because the plane was destroyed, the investigation will be handled by the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said.
The aircraft was owned by Wheeler Equipment Leasing in Gainesville, but it is advertised as available for rental on the website of Lanier Flight Center, which is located at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville. Airport officials said the plane was rented at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport.
Lanier Flight Center officials declined comment Tuesday as they said they are working to put out accurate information.
Passariello said Velazco had 143 hours of flying experience, according to his log book.
Staff writer Jacob Demmitt and regional staff writer Gabriel Khouli contributed to this report.