A small private plane that crashed into a Herndon Apartment last week is not as uncommon an occurrence as one might suspect. Fortunately no one was seriously injured when a two-seat, single-engine Cessna crash landed into the top floor of a three-story apartment building in the 2200 block of Astoria Circle about 12:30 a.m. May 31.
Four adults and two children were asleep in the apartment at the time of the crash, according to Virginia State police. A 33-year-old woman was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The plane’s pilot, William Larson, 61, of Vienna, suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. The plane’s only passenger, Tache L. Alejandro of Orlando, Fla., suffered only minor injuries and was treated at the scene.
The nose of the plane came to rest on the living room floor of the apartment where truck driver David Ventura and his family were sleeping. A total of three families remain displaced and are being temporarily relocated to vacant apartments within the complex, according to the apartment complex’s management.
Larson and Alejandro both work for an aerial photography company and had been in the air taking infra-red photographs when the plane experienced electrical problems and the engine cut off, according to Virginia State police. The plane had departed from Northeast Philadelphia Airport, but because the plane was also running low on fuel, Larson had contacted Dulles Airport to re-route its destination. Originally the plane was to land at the Manassas Regional Airport.
Alejandro called 911 to report the crash.
In a recording of the call, he can be heard saying “We just crash-landed an airplane…we ran out of fuel.”
Others in the apartment complex also called 911, some believing that an explosion had occurred.
Hanish Patel, who lives in the apartment complex, said on the day of the crash that it felt like an earthquake. “I was awakened more by the feel of it than the noise of it,” he said.
Although the crash might seem like a rare incident, Federal Aviation Administration records show that small, privately owned aircraft accidents occur at staggering rates.
There were 95 similar accidents and incidents nationwide in a period of only 10 days leading up to the Herndon crash — May 20 to May 31, according to the FAA Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing database. Twenty-nine of those — by far the highest number of any make — were in Cessna aircraft, according to the report. Of the 95, six crashes resulted in fatalities.
“We see several hundred fatal crashes every year,” FAA spokesperson Laura J. Brown said. “On the same day as the Herndon crash, we received reports of another single-engine Cessna crash in Washington State, and another single-engine plane that went down in New Jersey.”
There are likely more privately owned Cessna aircraft than any other make, and mishaps seem to escalate during warmer spring and summer months, when pilots take to the air more frequently, Brown said.
“Most reports are classified as ‘incidents’,” she said. “Many people are lucky enough to walk away. For an incident to be upgraded to an ‘accident,’ there must be significant injury or substantial damage to the aircraft.”
There are 4,589 private pilots licenses currently registered in the State of Virginia, according to the FAA’s Civil Airmen Registry.