Unlicensed pilot uses closed airport

Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: 2 Serious. Location: Welch, W.Va. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, whose student pilot certificate was expired, was practicing landings with a tailwind in the traffic pattern at a closed airport in an unregistered airplane.

According to FAA records, the airplane was registered to an individual in Georgia, but the airplane had been purchased by the pilot about a week before the accident. The most recent annual inspection was performed June 1, 2010, at 5,572 total aircraft hours.

The pilot refused to provide a statement, but a witness stated that the airplane was too fast on landing and too slow on climb-out after the landing was aborted. The airplane hit trees at the departure end of the runway, and then settled into trees below the elevated runway.

A post-crash examination of the wreckage revealed no mechanical deficiencies that would have precluded normal operation.

The Welch Municipal Airport was closed on March 15, 2007. The status of the airport was posted in the Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) and the runways were marked closed. City officials reported the pilot has operated aircraft from the airport since its closure and has continued to do so since the accident.

Probable cause: The unlicensed pilot’s decision to land on a closed runway with a tailwind, his failure to attain the proper touchdown point, and his delayed decision to attempt a go-around, resulting in a collision with trees.

NTSB Identification: ERA11LA168

This February 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. Mark C says

    According to the internet, this guy owns/operates a trucking company which is (imagine this) not DOT-authorized to operate. It appears that he renewed his 2nd-class medical/student pilot certificate in August of 2012. If you’re flying anywhere nearby you might want to keep an extra careful eye out. He ought to be in prison for criminal negligence causing injury, as his illegal passenger, Howard Short, was hurt pretty badly.

    • Lee Ensminger says

      Well, with the information you’ve provided about his illegal trucking company, it would seem pretty obvious this guy has a serious “anti-authority” issue. And isn’t this an interesting contrast to the debacle in Darlington, NC when a glider pilot was threatened with being shot down, illegally being ordered to land and detained [also illegally] for almost two days? Apparently the Welch authorities are aware this guy is operating out of a closed airport and doing nothing to stop him. Inaction when there should be action in WV, plenty of action when they should have minded their own business in NC. I would suggest there is a complete lack of common sense in both locations.

  2. Andy says

    Hmmm. Aside from the the absurdity of this guy’s actions, does he really deserve to be described as a “pilot”? Seems to me, a certificate of some kind is required (expired student-pilot license doesn’t count) before one is considered a “pilot”.

  3. Paul Ramsay says

    We can only hope that he doesn’t take anyone else out with him. With the draconian cuts that have come in the form of sequestration, the FAA won’t be able to do much due to lack of manpower, as for law enforcement, they can barely take care of themselves let alone a criminal! I would never fly with anyone that wasn’t licensed!!!

  4. says

    Are they going to wait until he hits an airliner with 150 people and kill them all before he is stopped! I don’t commend his determination. It is criminal.

    For the person that is looking for an explaination on why this continues, good question.

  5. Steve R says

    I agree, why is this activity continuing. The FAA and local officials need to take action before this guy kills someone…his fate notwithstanding. This is beyond rediculous, it is criminal, and can not do anything to instill trust in the aviation community, the FAA, and local officials….law enforcement included. This guy is an idiot who almost killed someone along with himself and no one seems to care, but when a glider pilot is flying totally within the rules, he had the weight of all authorities down on him just becaused he was a ‘perceived’ threat. This guy is a confirmed threat and is free to continue…explain this FAA and local authorities!!

  6. Lee Ensminger says

    So many bad decisions… and he has continued [apparently with another airplane!] to operate out of the closed airport SINCE the accident?!? Would someone knowledgeable please comment on what is likely to happen to this guy in the way of consequences both federal and local? I’ll give him this – he’s determined to fly. But I don’t want to fly with him.

    • Stephen says

      I think the FAA could issue big fines, maybe jail time (I am not sure) for flying without a valid license. I also think the owner of the land that owns the closed airport could issue trespassing charges if they want to. Likely the airplane owners insurance will deny the claim because he was unlicensed and many not be an authorized pilot, unless the plane was reported stolen (which in this case he will face theft charges). The insurance company of the land owner of the abandoned airport will also not cover his injuries due to the fact that he was trespassing. Likely he will be responsible for his own medical bills and those of any passengers on board. If he is poor, the passengers will have to use their own health insurance if they have it.

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