JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man was killed in an ultralight aircraft crash Sunday morning in East Arlington, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Lt. J.D. Stronko, with the Sheriff’s Office, said JSO, Jacksonville Aviation Authority police and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department responded about 6:40 a.m. to Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport. Police said they learned an Aerolite 103 ultralight aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from the airport and a 61-year-old man died. It appeared the aircraft crashed on the golf course at the Blue Sky Golf Club.
Stronko said the man was practicing flight techniques on the flight line at the time of the crash. Police believe the man did have prior flight experience.
UPDATE: Per @JSOPIO: A 61-year-old man was the person killed in the crash. He was practicing flight techniques and crashed shortly after taking off from the Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport. Police believe the man did have prior flight experience— Aaron Farrar (@aaronfarrarNews) June 27, 2021
Officers could be seen speaking to at least three golfers and staff members at the golf club on Monument Road following the crash.
Mary Huffman has been living behind the golf course for 30 years, never thinking something like this would happen so close to home.
“Shock,” she said. “I was going ‘What the heck is that?’ I didn’t hear anything. That is frightening. It could have been mighty close to my house.”
Due to the aircraft not having a tail number and its design, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will not be responding to the scene to investigate. Police are working to find out what caused the man to crash and determining whether he was supposed to flying during that time or not.
According to News4Jax aviation expert Ed Booth, ultralight aircraft are an unregulated part of aviation.
“An ultralight aircraft can only have one seat. It has to weigh less than 254 pounds empty, cannot carry more than 5 gallons of fuel, cannot fly faster than about 64 mph,” Booth said Sunday on “The Morning Show.” “(It has) a wingspan of maybe 16 to 17 feet, steel tube frame, aluminum frame, covered by a Dacron fabric similar to sailcloth, powered by an engine similar to what you would see on lawn equipment, a chainsaw engine, that sort of thing.”
Booth said their safety record isn’t good.
“If you’re looking for the cause of these accidents, the FAA will tell you these accidents are caused by a phenomenon called loss of control,” he said. “That’s definitely (when) a perfect airplane in flying condition does something that the pilot isn’t expecting it to do and it surprises the pilot.”
He said pilots do not need any training or licensing to fly these aircraft, which are not supposed to be flown over populated areas.
Booth said up to 500 or more people die every year because of plane crashes. He says we may be seeing an uptick now because people usually fly in the summer and people have been out of practice since the pandemic.
According to News4Jax meteorologist Mark Collins, the weather most likely did not play a factor in the crash, as rain came into the Arlington area after the 6:40 a.m. crash.