- The Washington Times - Friday, February 24, 2006

Federal Aviation Administration officials said yesterday further investigation is needed to determine whether similar factors were involved in three fatal small-plane crashes in the region in the past three days, including the most recent that killed a 30-year-old Augusta County pilot Thursday night.

“What we’re looking for is to see if there are any safety issues that the FAA needs to address through some sort of action,” agency spokesman Les Dorr said. “Right now, it’s too premature to speculate on any cause of action or the cause of the accidents.”

The Thursday crash occurred at 11:15 p.m. about three miles from the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport near Weyers Cave, Va. State police said a single-engine Cessna 182D piloted by Benjamin R. Hickin, of Spottswood, Va., clipped a high-tension line and sheared off a wing.

“Basically he was flying low, struck some overhead power lines and at that point was out of control,” Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Jeff Pearson said.

The plane crashed along Interstate 81 near a rest stop, burst into flames and damaged a car being transported in a tractor-trailer.

Police said Mr. Hickin, who was killed in the crash, was a commercial pilot for Gemini Air Cargo, a company based in Dulles, Va. He had taken off from the Eagle’s Nest Airport in Waynesboro, Va., about 20 miles to the southeast.

Skies were clear at the time of the crash, which was not the case during the two previous accidents.

“Weather does not appear to be a factor,” Sgt. Pearson said.

Investigators said heavy fog may have contributed to the crash of a single-engine plane late Wednesday night at the Stafford, Va., Regional Airport.

Four prominent businessmen from the Fredericksburg area were killed when the plane crashed in a wooded area about 500 yards south of the airport runway.

Wednesday morning, a single-engine Cessna 172S was making a second landing attempt at a Bowie airport through low clouds and a brief snowstorm when it nose dived into a field near Freeway Airport, just off eastbound Route 50.

The pilot and another front-seat occupant were killed. A passenger in the back was seriously injured.

Mr. Dorr said the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the three accidents, but may not know their exact causes for several months.

“You can’t speculate on any common thread or any possible action without knowing what the cause of the accidents are, and they’re still investigating that,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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