Plane Strikes Fire Truck While Taking Off – Charlotte, 1977

Here’s an usual apparatus accident, reported by the Charlotte Observer on Saturday, April 9, 1977.

Douglas Municipal Airport on Friday night, April 8. Piece of fire apparatus with three aboard. They were returning to the station, after doing some pre-planning of a DC-10 that had made a rare landing at the airport.

The FFs radioed the tower for routine clearance to cross the runway and thought they had received an okay.

While crossing the runway the rig was struck by a Piper Seneca that was taking off. The collision ripped away “part of one landing gear.”

Pilot Russell George Ashbaugh, 28, was flying for Corporation Jet Aviaition in Atlanta, and making a “regular trip” from Charlotte to “ferry checks for Purola Courier Corp”.

He opted to return to the field for an emergency landing, when he was unable to “crank the other landing gear and nose wheel up.”

He circled the field for over an hour, to “burn off surplus fuel.” After the runway was foamed, he made a “low sweep over the field” at 10:15 p.m.

However, he couldn’t see the foam, and asked for the fire and rescue equipment to park on either side of the runway, where the foam started.

After another practice pass, he landed the plane, at about 100 mph.

He held the plane straight “until the last moment”, when it “veered to the left as it slid to the stop.” The craft was heavily damaged and had to be moved by a wrecker.

Interviewed by an FAA investigator, the pilot told him: “The truck crossed in front of me on take-off” and “I clipped the top of it.”

The apparatus, which wasn’t identified in the story, received only minor damage. No injuries to the firefighters.

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