By Devin Leith-Yessian, Record-Journal staff
PLAINVILLE — Federal officials are investigating a fatal plane crash Thursday near Robertson Field airport.
Police say the pilot, Donald Eckberg, 67, of Burlington, was the only person on board. He was ejected from the airplane and died at the scene.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane, a Rutan Defiant aircraft, crashed south of the airport about 10:45 a.m.
Residents of Julie Road reported seeing and hearing a low flying aircraft pass over their homes before crashing just a few hundred feet away.
“It flew right over my head,” said Ashley Wolak, who watched the plane from her back porch. “It turned to the left to miss part of my house and almost hit my neighbor’s tree. They’re usually higher in the air, so I was kind of nervous.”
She lost sight of the plane when it passed over some trees before she heard it crash. Soon afterwards she saw a group of people attempting to reach the plane.
Among them was resident Roger Knap, who also saw the plane from his home.
He and others were unable to reach the plane because of a fence, but he saw a police officer arrive shortly after searching for the pilot.
“At first the cop couldn’t find him because he wasn’t in the plane anymore,” Knap said.
Knap was working in his kitchen when he heard an unusually low flying plane approaching. When he looked outside he saw it descending towards his home before banking as if avoiding it.
“I was ready to run because I thought it was going to go into the houses,” he said.
Despite the crash being close to her home, Nicole Palmiere said she doesn’t feel the nearby airport is a danger.
“We have hundreds of planes that come over us all the time and we’re not scared,” she said. “It’s just sad that it happened.”
The pilot of a Cessna 172 sustained minor injuries on Sept. 11, 2107 when the four-seat plane went off the runway and crashed when attempting a landing. The aircraft collided with a tree in the parking lot of Carling Switch, a business adjacent to the airport.
Three months later, NASCAR champion and Plainville resident Ted Christopher was killed when a Mooney M20C which had departed from Robertson crashed in North Branford. The pilot and friend of Christopher, Charles Dundas, was also killed in the crash.
The FAA will investigate the crash and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause.