Story last updated at 11:49 PM on Aug. 12, 2005
Before pilot crashed, he tried to land
'Killed on impact'
By Don Nelson
ultralight aircraft that lifted off from the Jackson County Airport
Thursday evening climbed to about 300 feet, made several sharp turns in
an attempt to return to the runway and dove into the ground, killing
Authorities identified the flyer as 50-year-old Edmond J. Porcheddu of Dacula.
"(Porcheddu) was killed on impact," said Jackson County Sheriff Stan Evans on Friday.
County EMS, the Jefferson Fire and Rescue team, the Harrisburg Fire
Department, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and the Jackson County
Coroner's Office responded to the accident, which happened between 7
and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Evans said.
County Coroner's Office sent Porcheddu's body to the Georgia Bureau of
Investigation Crime Lab to find the cause of death, said sheriff's Maj.
department is continuing to investigate the cause of the plane crash,
Cochran said, and he expects to have conclusions in "a couple of days."
Tony Castillo, a
friend of Porcheddu's and a fellow ultralight pilot, was at the Jackson
County Airport on Thursday night, talking to Porcheddu by radio when
the plane crashed. Castillo said Porcheddu was trying to turn the plane
to land when it stalled and fell about 150 feet straight to the ground.
flying a Mitchell A-10 ultralight, a winged, single-engine plane he had
purchased about two months earlier, said Castillo, who bought a simpler
model ultralight from Porcheddu at about the same time. The Mitchell
A-10, often labeled an ultralight motorized glider by ultralight
enthusiasts, has a three-blade propeller on the rear of the plane and
overhead hinged wings that fold up for storage or transport.
small, usually single-person aircraft not regulated by the Federal
Aviation Administration and that do not require airworthiness
certificates or pilot certification. They are used primarily for
recreation or sport.
Porcheddu had made several modifications to the aircraft, including
rebuilding the engine, and was taking it up for a test flight Thursday.
Castillo had joined his friend to observe the aircraft and report to
Porcheddu via the radio on what he noticed.
took off, the plane gained altitude very slowly but reached a point
where the pilot had to commit to flight, Castillo said.
to fly the ultralight over the runway and was making a series of turns
to try to land in the same direction he took off, according to
Castillo. After losing some altitude, Porcheddu was trying to make a
final turn when the plane stalled and plummeted to the ground, Castillo
"In the turn, he
lost speed and the plane quit flying," Castillo stated. "He was going
too slow and had banked to avoid some trees."
The fall was brutal.
"The impact on the ground was pretty hard," Castillo said. "He was killed on impact."
believes the ultralight's engine continued running throughout the
flight, Castillo said he thought the main reason for the crash was an
underpowered engine. Any plane, including a glider, will fall if its
wings lose lift, Castillo said, and Porcheddu's plane could not
maintain its lift because of the engine's lack of power and the banking
The sheriff said
ultralights with parasails and wings often fly over Jackson County, but
he doesn't recall an ultralight accident.
"We see them around all the time, and this is the first time we ever had one to crash," Evans said.
Castillo shared a hangar which they used for their ultralights at
Jackson County Airport, and four other ultralight owners used adjacent
hangars, he said. Castillo said the six pilots were friends and often
flew at the same time.
Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Saturday, August 13, 2005