A small World War I-era replica plane crashed at the Dexter Municipal Airport late Wednesday morning after a breeze lifted the taxiing plane into the air with the pilot strapped inside.
The pilot, Rodney Wright of East Corinth, who had spent three years building the experimental aircraft, suffered a serious head injury and was brought to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, according to Chief Matt Connor of the Dexter Fire Department.
Wright was taxiing the plane with an open cockpit on a grass runway at the airport when the breeze lifted the plane, which has two sets of wings, into the air. The plane crashed down, destroying its landing gear, then ended up upside down, said Roger Nelson, the airport’s manager. Wright spent time upside down as he was strapped into the cockpit with a shoulder harness.
The plane is not certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, so it is not allowed to fly. However, Wright — who has hangar space at the airport — is permitted to use the plane on the ground.
“He definitely didn’t have any intention of getting in the air with it,” Nelson said. “It’s a very serious crash.”
The Dexter police and fire departments responded to the crash around 11:30 a.m., and crews spent awhile trying to stabilize Wright before a LifeFlight helicopter brought him to Bangor, according to Connor.
The airport is closed until further notice, and Maine Department of Environmental Protection staffers were on the scene Wednesday afternoon checking for fuel leaks. The FAA will conduct an investigation because the crash caused an injury.
Wednesday’s crash was the third in 20 years at the Dexter airport, according to Connor.
No charges are expected to be filed in connection with the crash.