By Teresa Stepzinski – Florida Times-Union

A 66-year-old pilot died when his glider crashed Saturday afternoon into the treeline at Herlong Recreational Airport in Jacksonville.

The victim was an experienced glider pilot and owned the glider that crashed immediately after he separated from the tow plane, Lt. Mike Silcox of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said.

The victim’s name wasn’t released. Silcox said witnesses told police that the pilot had several years of experience.

“He did the release lever to let go of the tow rope from the airplane and immediately the glider seemed to be in some kind of distress and crashed into the ground,” Silcox said of the crash that happened about 1:15 p.m.

Silcox said the glider was about 150 feet off the ground when it “immediately pitched and nose-dived into the ground.”

The only communication between the glider and tow plane, Silcox said was “release” when the glider pilot released the tow rope.

Silcox said nobody on the ground or in the tow plane was injured.

The glider was a Schleicher ASW-19B, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which had investigators en route to the crash site.

The glider is a single-seat, fixed-wing aircraft that doesn’t have an engine, the company’s website said. 

This is the second fatal aircraft crash near the Westside airfield within four months.

Two people died in late December 2021 when their small private plane crashed in a field near the airport. That single-engine Mooney M20J went down about 20 minutes after departing from Herlong, investigators have said.

A Mooney M20J is a four-seat, propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.