Witness: heat, wind likely factors

By Karen Hopper Usher Cadillac News

CADILLAC — A small seaplane crashed during take-off Thursday evening at the Wexford County Airport.

“It happened quick for the guys,” said Steve Witherspoon, a pilot with more than 30 years of experience, who saw the crash happen.

The seaplane pilot was taken to the hospital but is not believed to be seriously injured.

Witherspoon, who flies freight for UPS, said he and a UPS truck driver hurried to the site to help the pilot, who was already out of the plane and walking around when they arrived.

“He seemed like he was okay. He got banged up a little bit—the airplane’s pretty much balled up — but it could have been a lot worse,” Witherspoon said.

It was not immediately clear whether there have been other crashes at the Wexford County Airport.

Sgt. Lance Taylor of the Cadillac Police Department, said it was the first plane crash he’d worked during 20 years of law enforcement experience.

Witherspoon said he believed the hot weather and a wind from the north could have played a role in the crash.

Floatplanes (this is the term Taylor used) take off on dry land with the help of a truck and a trailer. The truck hauls the plane down the runway until it gets enough speed to take off.

“He no more than came off the off the trailer and the airplane—it just went off to the left side,” said Witherspoon.

Another witness, Eric Sharp, who works for UPS, provided a video to the Cadillac News.

It can be harder to fly on hot days.

“You don’t get as much power out of the engine and the air is less dense,” Witherspoon explained. “He didn’t have much working for him with the crosswind that he had coming out of the north and the air temperature up there.”

Sgt. Taylor said he didn’t know where the seaplane pilot was intending to go.

The Cadillac News spoke with Sgt. Taylor shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday. 

“We’ve spoken with the (Federal Aviation Administration),” Taylor said. “They’ve cleared us from the scene, so they’ll follow up.”

Taylor confirmed a fuel spill but did not have details on the quantity or clean-up. He referred questions about when flights could resume to the airport. The Cadillac News was unable to reach airport personnel Thursday evening.

Witherspoon said the pilot was lucky that he didn’t get killed.

“That would have been a good way to get killed, right there, going in upside down like that,” Witherspoon said.