PLAINVILLE -- 67-year-old Donald Eckberg of Burlington is dead after the plane he was piloting crashed in Plainville shortly after 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
Eckberg was flying his experimental Rutan Defiant model kit airplane. He took off from nearby Robertson Airport. It’s not clear how long he was in the air before the crash or if he tried to make contact with the airport about a mayday or problem in the sky.
“It kept getting closer so I figured I’d better run because it looked like it was going to hit my house,” said Roger Knapp of Plainville.
FOX61 was able to obtain FAA documents that showed Eckberg received his certificate for the plane back in 2003. His current private pilot's licensed was issued in 2012 and that license was for an experimental aircraft only. However, Eckberg was also a licensed experimental aircraft repairman and builder.
Plainville Town Manager Robert Lee said Robertson Field has never had a bad reputation for being unsafe.
"I think over the long run, it has a pretty good safety record. I don't think this is a trend of any sort, but certainly we leave that up to the FAA and NTSB to determine whether there are any changes that need to be made," said Lee.
Thursday brought clear blue sky to Connecticut and wind, at ground-level at least, was minimal.
“Obviously it shakes us up because we live here and it could have hit us but I really feel bad for them and the family,” said Nicole Palmieri of Plainville.
The plane crashed on town property that is technically part of the Plainville landfill, but it’s very close to a condo community. Residents there described what they heard and saw.
“No smoke, no anything like that. Just super low to the ground,” said Philip Woronick of Plainville.
Lt. Nicholas Mullins of the Plainville Police Department told FOX61 Eckberg was ejected from the plane and died on impact.
“We had an officer who arrived first on scene right back here. He had to hop a fence and run up there and he saw that the pilot was ejected from the plane,” said Mullins.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are now tasked with determining what caused the plane to crash.
Last year, a pilot suffered only minor injuries after a plane crashed near Robertson Field Airport.