BANGOR, Maine — The pilot of a tiny, experimental plane that made a pit stop at Old Town’s Dewitt Field in June crashed the same aircraft in a California city Tuesday afternoon.
Dave Robins, a 29-year-old pilot with 14 years of flight experience, survived the crash but his plane did not.
The 700-pound, 14-foot-long KR-2 experimental plane crashed during an apparent emergency landing in a field short of a runway at the Tehachapi Municipal Airport shortly before 4 p.m. PDT, said Gary Soucy, general manager of Old Town’s Carter Aero Works.
“The plane pretty much disintegrated around him,” said Soucy. “They didn’t need to extract him from the plane because he was just laying on the ground.”
Carter Aero Works’ owner, Curt Carter, is a longtime friend of Robins’ and went to visit him Tuesday night at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, Calif., according to Soucy.
Soucy said Carter told him Wednesday morning that Robins escaped with surprisingly minor injuries considering the damage done to the plane.
“Dave only suffered a broken ankle and a broken wrist,” Soucy said.
Robins was still at the hospital Wednesday afternoon and was listed in stable condition, according to a Kern Medical Center spokeswoman.
Carter was able to visit Robins because he is living in California while working as an engineer on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, an eight-person vehicle intended to take passengers to space, Soucy said.
Robins didn’t recall much about what led up to the crash, according to Curtis and Soucy, but he believed it resulted from either a power loss or an engine failure that occurred as he was lining up for a landing.
Robbins landed in Old Town in June during a cross-country voyage during which he planned to “hit up all four corners of the U.S.” It also gave him the opportunity to visit Carter, who was in Maine at the time, and other friends at Carter Aero Works.
He decided to take the trip during a break from his job in Afghanistan, where Robins maintains and repairs unmanned aerial vehicles as a contractor for the military.
He said at the time of his visit that he had purchased the KR-2 in 2009. Someone built the kit aircraft in a garage in 1981 — making the aircraft two years older than its pilot — but it hadn’t flown since 1991, according to Robins.
The Federal Aviation Administration has no record of any incidents involving the plane or Robins in the past. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.
“I think that his skill in landing the airplane saved his life,” Soucy said. “That’s where all your training comes in — for that moment right there.”