Wednesday afternoon, citizens and fellow members of the aviation community in Camas were shocked to hear that a 1941 BT-13 aircraft crashed into the hangar at the northwestern end of Grove Field, located about 3 miles north of Camas. The pilot, 69-year-old Mark Lewallen passed away and the passenger was injured, now in a local hospital with traumatic injuries.
Both men were pilots, but Lewallen was receiving training from the instructor in the rear during the flight. According to his wife, Lewallen was experienced, with hundreds of flying hours. He was retired but had been flying since high school.
The instructor was a friend of Lewallen’s who owned a close to identical plane and had tens of thousands of hours of flying experience.
At the RV park across from the airport, citizens who often watch the plane among others come and go at the airfield witnessed the plane minutes before the crash. An unusual engine sound alerted the plane watchers before they heard the crash. The exact reason for the accident is unknown, though factors such as a stall, spin, steep turn on approach, a previous missed approach, and corrections after landing are being heavily considered and pieced together. Human error is most probable.
Some current aviation enthusiasts at CHS have their own ways of responding to the news that has heavily affected the aviation community in the area.
“I think the crash is really devastating,” Marilyn Green, a current Freshman at CHS and student pilot said.” Sometimes things just get a little bit out of control and even the most experienced pilot could get caught in a bad situation… As an aspiring pilot, it shows me the downsides as well. Although it’s my dream, it has its risks.”
Green acknowledges the lessons that can be learned through hearing about events such as this. “My heart goes out to the pilot’s family during this loss. It reminds you to give your loved ones a hug and a kiss because anything can happen… I think we all need to remember whether we’re just hopping in the car or flying a plane, we need to be super aware of our surroundings because safety is key, and anything can happen.”
Hailey Berry is a current CHS senior and student pilot who attends Cascadia Technical Academy, where the event has been used as a learning experience. “Learning more about it from my instructor at Cascadia, I don’t think the pilot made the best call to try and recover and pull up after running off the runway but it honestly can happen to anyone flying in or out of Grove, or anywhere for that matter. The plane the pilot was flying was prone to stalls at low speed and I think that was a big factor in trying to save the overcorrection on landing. Even though it is extremely sad, I think it’s a good learning opportunity for other pilots in our area to be aware that accidents can and will happen, and that’s why we train so hard for so long… it’s extremely sad especially that it happened in our community. ”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are now looking into the cause of the crash in an investigation that started Wednesday night.