By KEVIN HOWE and
The Monterey County Herald
A Sonora pilot was injured yesterday while trying to land a single-engine plane at the Monterey Peninsula Airport.
The wing of his small plane struck a tree and plowed onto the sixth fairway of the Monterey Pines Golf Course.
Pilot Hal A. Cunningham, 56, of Sonora was listed in serious condition this morning at San Jose Medical Center, where he was airlifted along with a male passenger. A female passenger, who was pinned inside the wreckage, was critically injured and taken to a separate hospital. The passengers' names were not given.
Cunningham is licensed to fly commercial planes. Acquaintances in Sonora said he has been a commercial airline pilot.
His six-passenger Cessna 210 Centurion was near landing when the pilot radioed the tower at 3:22 p.m. to report trouble.
The aircraft clipped a Monterey pine tree with its right wing, shearing off the wingtip, then spun around and slid tail first down the fairway about 300 yards from the airport. The plane came to rest on its right side with the right wing and aileron crumpled beneath it and the plane's tricycle landing gear bent backward.
The wing's tip was lodged in the tree.
Witnesses said it appeared the plane might have run out of fuel as it approached the runway. The plane appeared to veer left of the normal approach and toward the open fairway in a possible attempt to land the plane after its engine had stopped, they said.
Golfers near the sixth fairway immediately rushed to the crumpled aircraft to remove the pilot and male passenger. To free the woman, firefighters cut away the front of the plane's cockpit, removed the captain's chair and used the "jaws of life" hydraulic device.
Witnesses at the golf course ran or drove their carts to the plane and attempted to rescue the occupants.
"We were just putting, and we didn't hear the hum of the plane," said golfer Kaulana Esteban. "You just heard a pocket of air going by. You usually see the planes above us, but this was in a different direction."