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Plane crashes at Columbia Airport

Airplane owner Brett Evans (Maggie Beck/Union Democrat).
Airplane owner Brett Evans (Maggie Beck/Union Democrat).

By HOYT ELKINS

The Union Democrat

Tricky winds Tuesday on the north end of Columbia Airport helped bring down a flight instructor, his student and the student's newly-purchased airplane.

Nathaniel Cheshire, a flight instructor from Bonners Ferry, Idaho, was at the controls Tuesday afternoon, preparing to ferry the plane to Dover, Idaho, where student Brett Evans lives. Neither of them was seriously injured in the wreck.

Cheshire and Evans took off from a grass runway at Columbia Airport into a northerly wind.

"We were climbing up out of the airport, but couldn't get full power," Cheshire said, "and it became pretty clear we weren't going to get over the power lines in front of us."

In a telephone conversation with a Federal Aviation Administration official, Cheshire said he had purged water and auto fuel from the tanks and refueled before taking off. He didn't discount the possibility that fuel problems may have conspired with tricky wind patterns to bring him down.

To avoid the power lines, Cheshire said he banked to the left and kept banking to avoid a clump of oak trees.

The plane was over pasture land owned by Nancy and Jerry Solari, which contains a pond at the north end of a small valley and groves of oaks on both sides.

"I'm pretty sure there was a down draft, the way the wind was blowing down into that depression," Cheshire speculated.

In any event, the plane lost power about 50 feet above the ground, he said, and it swooped downward until the left wing dug into the ground and caused the plane to come to rest with the tail skyward.

Firemen responded quickly from Columbia and dealt with fuel leaking from the plane. Cheshire suffered a scraped left knuckle and bumped his head. Evans, silent and withdrawn after the mishap, said he could use some aspirin.

The pair had come from Reno to pick up the plane.


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