ONTARIO — The sole passenger who was injured in a plane crash on Friday afternoon that killed the pilot is still in serious condition at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Ontario, according to a hospital spokesman.
Clifford Todd Smith, 57, was taken to the hospital for injuries that were not life threatening, but had suffered at least a broken leg, according to witnesses.
The pilot, Anders Frostneson, 47, of Fairfield, was also transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
What happened to cause the 1947 T-28 to crash is not known at this time, according to airport manager Dan Beaubien, who called the Federal Aviation Administration, so that the National Transportation Safety Board could begin its investigation.
“The jury is still out on the cause,” he said,” and it might be out for a while.
Beaubien was one of the last people to see the pilots before they flew out of the Ontario Municipal Airport that morning. He said Smith and Frostensen were both “excellent pilots,” who have been flying in and out of Ontario for quite some time. In fact, the two had participated in spraying water color from planes during the recent Airport Appreciation Day.
Beaubien said their plan that day was to take the antique aircraft out and put it “through the paces, making sure everything was okay.”
The crash happened about a mile northwest of Ontario’s Municipal Airport and the plane, a 1947 T28. And that is where the plane will remain until the FAA and NTSB complete their investigations.
“Everything stays put with a ribbon, so there are no alterations or changes,” Beaubien said.
The plane actually crashed into a pasture with cows, and the owner has since put up an electric fence for added protection, according to the airport manager.
After the plane is looked over, it then becomes an insurance issue, and those companies usually hire someone to come load it up and haul it away to deal with it.
Typically, when a plane crashes, the insurance owns it at that point, and decides whether the plane is salvageable.
“This one is fairly beyond repair,” Beaubien said.
However, he added that somebody may have an interest in at least restoring the aircraft, as it is a collectible, “like a 1960 Corvette,” due to its antique status, Beaubien said.
This particular model of plane was made for war
pilots who were enlisting in the service.
“So they would use them to train to [eventually] fly bigger planes,” such as fighter aircraft in war, Beaubien said.
According to a timeline online by the T-28 Trojan Foundation, the first prototype of the T-28 was developed by North American Aviation in 1946 for the U.S. Navy to use as an advanced jet transition trainer for those servicemen who would fly warbirds in the Southeast Asia Conflict.
“The T-28 was unique in that it was one of just a few aircraft types that served all branches of the U.S. military and many foreign military,” reads information on the website. “After it’s retirement it continued to serve in many civilian uses and today is one of the most popular airshow aircraft performing worldwide.”
As there aren’t many of these “old warbirds” in existence, Beaubien said they often get picked up by aviation or history enthusiasts who refurbish them.
When it comes to rare aviation aircraft, overall, “most go to museums, because if you fly and crash one, that’s one less” in existence, he said.
“When something like this happens, it’s very unfortunate,” Beaubien said. However, reflecting back on the pilot’s death and passenger’s injuries, he added, “Planes are nothing next to people.”