A two-hour tour _ vintage plane takes off, without pilot
Nov. 24, 1997
URBANA, Ohio (AP) _ It wasn't the type of solo flight that Paul Sirks had in mind.
The Dayton man watched helplessly as his single-engine vintage plane took off by itself, flew for two hours and crashed into a bean field 90 miles away Sunday. No one was hurt.
``I guess the odds of something like this happening are just astronomical,'' said State Highway Patrol Sgt. Avery Dyer.
Sirks had landed the 1946 Aeronca Champ at Grimes Field airport because of mechanical problems, police said. The plane's engine stalled on the runway and Sirks got out to restart it by hand-turning the propeller.
Once the engine started, the empty plane taxied away without Sirks, nearly hitting another plane and a hangar before becoming airborne.
``It just got away from him, and it took off,'' said Carol Hall, an airport secretary. ``This plane also was trimmed for landing, which means the nose was trimmed up, so it just started climbing.''
The yellow two-seater climbed to about 2,000 feet and circled the area for about five minutes before heading northeast. Another pilot and State Highway Patrol aircraft tracked the plane, which reached about 12,000 feet near the end of its flight.
It finally went down in central Ohio, some 55 miles northeast of Columbus, said patrol Lt. John Born. Authorities said it may have run out of fuel. The plane didn't exactly nose dive into the ground, but it was damaged beyond repair.
The Federal Aviation Administration, Highway Patrol and Urbana police were investigating. No charges had been filed against Sirks.
Telephone messages seeking comment were left late Sunday at Sirks' home and at the FAA's regional office in Dayton.