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Plane crash kills pilot on test flight in Greater Austin

The test flight of a newly-painted Cessna 320 Skynight turned to tragedy for an elderly pilot in Greater Austin. Relatives said the victim, a farmer and aeronautical engineer, died in a plane crash on an early weekday morning near San Marcos airport.

Officials are not certain why the experienced pilot crashed. Emergency responders said the burning wreckage of the twin-engine plane resembled a “fireball” near Interstate 35. Fire crews said the only part of the plane that remained in place was the tail section. The rest of the Cessna was burned and scattered across a 30-foot area.

Officials noted that the weather conditions on the morning of the flight included a fog warning. Investigators did not say whether there was a connection between the atmospheric conditions and the aviation accident.

The 66-year-old pilot had been traveling constantly from Texas to his North Dakota home for two months checking on the progress of the aircraft’s refurbishing. The accident occurred just after the work on the Cessna was completed.

The pilot had been flying solo at the time of the fatal mishap. The plane crashed in the corner of a large field and caused no other personal injuries.

Federal transportation and aviation officials were on the scene but had not concluded their accident investigations. Reports about the accident included no flight plan.

Even as the pilot’s spouse, children and grandchildren grieve for the death of their loved one, family members wonder how the accident occurred. Weather may have been a factor, although other reasons could have caused the Cessna to go down.

The plane had just been reupholstered and painted. Did the refurbishing crew change something aboard the aircraft that might have caused it to crash?

Evidence of carelessness caused by someone other than the pilot might be used by the surviving spouse in a wrongful death claim. A lawsuit could help family members recover damages from irresponsible parties.

Source:, “North Dakota man dies in plane crash near San Marcos,” Claudia Grisales, Nov. 1, 2012

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