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Plane Door Makes Solo Landing in Fullerton

July 19, 2001|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dario Sandoval didn't know what the big white thing was that fell out of the sky Wednesday afternoon--he was just glad it didn't land on his head.

It turned out to be a door off a small plane that had just taken off from the Fullerton Airport.

"It landed right between two cars in our back parking lot," said Sandoval, owner of Fullerton Transmission on Commonwealth Avenue. "I heard a big loud noise and thought somebody had just crashed into a car."

Authorities said the white fiberglass door fell off an experimental aircraft shortly after 4 p.m., when it left a runway about a half-mile from Sandoval's shop. The pilot had to turn around and make an emergency landing.

"He couldn't get his landing gear down," said Sylvia Palmer, a spokeswoman for the city of Fullerton, "so he came on his belly. The plane went off the runway onto the grass."

The only damage was minor scrapes to the underside of the plane, a Velocity Home Built that is kept in a hangar at the airport, Palmer said. Both the pilot, whom Palmer did not identify, and a passenger walked away from the aircraft uninjured, she said. The airport was closed for about 45 minutes while crews towed the small plane from the runway.

Back at Fullerton Transmission, merchants and customers from nearby businesses gathered to see where the door landed.

"The marks are still there where it hit the ground," Sandoval, 42, said after police picked up the plane part and took it to the airport.

"In another five minutes I'd have been working in the parking lot."

The National Transportation Safety Board characterized the landing as an "incident" rather than a crash and plans no follow-up, Palmer said.

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