Small plane crashes near Loop 202 in Chandler; 1 person injured

Chandler Police officials say one person was injured when a small plane crashed near the Loop 202 on the night of May 9.

According to a brief statement, the crash happened at the McClintock Drive overpass at Santan Freeway.

The pilot was the only person aboard the single-engine Cessna 172R and suffered minor injuries when the plane went down Sunday night near the Loop 202. 

Freeway cameras showed the aircraft upside down with its tail in the air. A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the plane clipped power lines while approaching the privately-owned Stellar Airpark in Chandler and then crashed into the overpass. 

The airpark, a public-use facility, is about 3 miles west of downtown Chandler. Police said the unidentified 23-year-old female pilot was taken to a hospital for treatment on injuries that weren't life threatening.

Matthew, who lives near the Loop 202 and McClintock, says he and his neighbors couldn't believe their eyes when they saw what he had just described.

"I noticed lots of lights going by all at once, so I went to check it out," Matthew said. "I saw the tail end of a plane sticking out of the off ramp of the freeway. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen."

Parker Nothrup, chair of the Flight Department College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said the crash could be attributed to one of two things: pilot error or aircraft problems.

"From the aircraft, if it had lost some power or the engine had quit, the pilot would have been trained to land at the nearest landing surface," said Nothrup. "Gliding is unpowered so maybe they didn’t quite get far enough."

Nothrup says the location and the time of day poses its own challenges for pilots.

"The way Stellar Airpark is set up, there is some unimproved land that has no buildings on it just south of the airpark," Nothrup said. "When you’re flying over dark terrain or unlit terrain at night, it can create an illusion or a tendency for pilots to fly lower than they would normally, which would expose them to obstacles from the ground."

The actual cause is under investigation, but everyone is thankful that no one was seriously hurt.

"It could have been worse," said Matthew, a witness. "It could have hit one of our houses, or it could have landed on the 202 itself."

Power lines were also clipped during the incident, but SRP said they just rerouted the electricity so no one lost power.

As a result of the crash, the Loop 202 Santan Freeway offramp at McClintock Drive was closed but has reopened.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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