2011-12-03 / Front Page


Pilot ‘belly-landed’ plane on barn to avoid deadly roll-over

The pilot of a small airplane that crashed into a barn in northern Potter County deliberately landed it there to cushion the impact of the collision and avoid a rollover.

Veteran pilot Thomas P. Anticola had lowered the plane’s elevation from 8,000 feet to 6,000 as it became apparent that icing was compromising both of its engines.

When the engines failed, the plane slipped below cloud cover and he looked for a site that would soften the impact and avoided skidding or elevation of the plane’s nose, which likely would have caused it to roll.

This was accomplished by Anticola’s belly-landing the plane into a barn on the property of James and Shirley VanPelt, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

“The pilot’s fifirst two choices for the forced landing were unavailable, so he stalled the airplane into the barn to lessen the impact forces,” the NTSB reported.

Seconds later, just after Anticola and three passengers hurried away, fifire broke out, destroying the plane and the barn.

The crash occurred just off Johnson Road, near the Tioga County border. All of the occupants were from the Buffalo, N.Y., area.

The twoengine private plane was a 1965 Hawker Beechcraft B55 Baron enroute from New Castle, Del., to Buffalo. The three passengers all work for Applied Fabric Technologies of Orchard Park, N.Y.

Mrs. VanPelt was home at the time of the crash. The couple’s barn contained four cars as well as several machines and tools. The fifire was fueled by aviation fuel, gasoline, and a coal pile located behind the structure.

Emergency responders tended to the victims, none of whom was seriously injured, and kept the fifire from spreading to the VanPelt home.

After the fifire, only an outline of the garage structure remained and few identififiable pieces of the airplane were recovered, including parts of the wings, landing gear, seat frames and throttle cables.

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