News Article - March 22 2006

Pilot listed in serious condition after crash
  HANOVER -- The pilot of a crashed twin-engine plane remained in serious condition at a hospital Tuesday as federal aviation officials inspected the wreckage of the craft left at Morristown Airport. Randel Manaka, 53, of Rydal, Pa., was taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital after complaining of pain in his back and left hip, and a numb feeling in his left thigh, after the Piper Aztec he was flying crashed Monday evening. The plane, built in 1970, came down about 200 feet short of one of the runways at the airport. Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday were examining the wreckage.

   Holly Baker, a spokeswoman for the FAA, said the plane reported a right landing gear problem and shut down its engines during its approach. Bob Bogan, deputy director of the airport, said that the crash did not interrupt flight operations, and caused only a momentary closure of the main runway. Bogan said Manaka chose to land on the airport's "crosswind" runway. The airport's main runway, numbered 523, is positioned parallel to prevailing winds, which travel north or south. The crosswind runway, numbered 1331, runs east-west.

   "The winds last night were rather variable and coming from a variety directions," Bogan said. According to the National Weather Service Web site, wind was recorded at 16 miles per hour with gusts up to 22 miles per hour at the airport at 5:45 p.m., just minutes before the crash. Bogan said that the plane initially touched down in the swamp directly adjacent to the runway. The plane ended up on the bank of a 200-foot flat stretch of grass between the runway and steep slope that runs down to the swamp.

   Bogan said Manaka had apparently done at least one fly-by of the airport to allow the air traffic control tower to check the plane's landing gear, but Bogan does not know whether Manaka was given the green light to land. The plane is owned by Northeast Aviation, based at Northeast Philadelphia Airport. Bogan said Northeast Aviation often lands in Morristown to pick up checks and transport them south. A man answering the phones at the company's office in Philadelphia refused to comment on the crash.

Source - Daily Record