Crash Update: Flight School Has History of Trouble

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One of the people on board the small plane that crashed in Oceanside on Saturday has been identified as Amandeep Singh.  Singh is reportedly in serious condition at Scripps Medical Center in La Jolla.  Oceanside police said the other man involved in the crash suffered moderate injuries, he’s also being treated at Scripps Medical Center.

The low-flying airplane hit a power pole and crashed, causing a 25,000-gallon spill of raw sewage.

Police Sgt. Kelan Poorman says the single-engine Cessna Skyhawk was only a dozen feet off the ground when it hit a support pole for overhead electrical lines and went down a half-mile from Oceanside Municipal Airport late Saturday morning.

The aircraft also sheered off a sewage valve, releasing 25,000 gallons of raw goo before it could be stopped. Poorman says crews contained the sewage before it could reach nearby homes but everybody on the scene had to be decontaminated.

The 24-year-old pilot was trapped in the wreckage for a time. He and his 18-year-old passenger were taken to a hospital.

Poorman says it's unclear why the plane was flying so low. The pilot had not radioed any reports of trouble to local control towers.

NBC has learned that the single-engine Cessna Skyhawk was registered to California Flight Academy in El Cajon.  According to records on the National Transportation Safety Board’s website, this isn't the first time one of the flight school’s aircraft has been involved in an accident.

On April 1, 2008 a plane burst into flames after a hard landing at Gillespie field.  NTSB records show the plane was registered to the California Flight Academy.  The student pilot was on his second solo flight in a Cessna 152.  He was practicing ‘touch and gos’ when the landing gear failed.  The propeller hit the pavement, which sent sparks flying, starting the fire.

On June 26, 2008 another incident involving a small Cessna aircraft, again, NTSB records show the plane was registered to the California Flight Academy.  The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in Lakeside.  The aircraft took off from Gillespie Field in El Cajon.  The two people onboard had to land near Highway-67 and Johnson Lake Road.  No one was hurt and the plane remained intact.

NBC tried repeatedly to contact the California Flight Academy but was unable to reach anyone for comment.

Aviation expert Phil Thalheimer said the four seat, single-engine aircraft that went down in Oceanside, is commonly used in flight schools.

“It's very safe.  It's very forgiving.  In fact generally when we tell students if you have a problem let go of everything.  The plane flies better than you do.  Just let it go the plane will fix itself," Thalheimer said.  The exception: a mechanical or maintenance problem or pilot error.

“Generally in accidents like this for the most part it comes down to a combination of the plane and the pilot," Thalheimer said.

Thalheimer said the crash could have been much worse.

"In general when small airplanes crash they are generally fatalities involved.  This was fortunate," he said.

The NTSB took over the investigation.  Thalheimer said it may take up to a year for the agency to issue an official cause of the crash.

Residents in Oceanside were stunned by the crash.  Tony Domanick was working nearby when he heard the sirens of fire trucks responding to the crash scene.

"You hear plane crashes like what happened in Miramar and stuff like that and just don't think it's going to happen around this are… It was kind of a shock you know -- that something like that happened that close," Domanick said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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