The operations manager of the airport near Harlan was watching this morning when a crop dusting bi-plane crashed during take off. Olie Pash, says he heard the plane taxing down and went out to see if he needed fuel, but the plane did not need fuel and headed down the runway.
Pash says the plane started to take off about where he would expect it to, but the plane simply didn’t climb. Pash said the single-seat Grumman Ag-Cat aircraft being flown by Mike Christensen, of Harlan, lost power and dropped off the end of the runway. Pash says he continued watching the plane and then said out loud, “Mike I don’t think you’re going to make.”
He said it was probably less than three-seconds from the time he went airborne to the time the plane landed in a corn field. The plane ended-up about 100-yards past the end of the runway, upside down. The bi-plane is owned by Thomas Paulsen, of Harlan. Officials say the aircraft was loaded with about 170-gallons of fungicide on-board, but Pash thought it was more along the lines of 120-to 130 gallons — a light load, he says, for that type of plane.
Pash says the fungicide itself was not much of a hazard, but combined with aviation fuel or gas, it produces a poisonous vapor. He says Christensen suffered minor injuries and refused medical treatment, but was transported to the hospital to be checked-out as required by F-.A.A. regulations.
The airport was closed to air traffic at around 11:18 a-m, and Pash says he’s not sure how long it will remain closed, but it could be until sometime tomorrow, while an investigation into the incident is underway.