A Burlington man died when his plane crashed into a ridge not far from the Robertson Airport in Plainville Thursday morning, police said.
Donald Eckberg, 67, died at the scene of the crash — the ridge of the town landfill, southwest of the airport, apparently as the plane was coming in for a landing. He was the only occupant, Lt. Nicholas Mullins said.
An officer guarded the crash site all night and remained there at 6:30 a.m., police said. It wasn’t clear if investigators had wrapped up the on-scene portion of the crash probe, but wreckage remains.
Eckberg had flown the twin-engine Rutan Defiant aircraft from the airport earlier, Mullins said, but he was not sure when the plane took off or where it had been before it returned and crashed.
The plane broke into pieces when it hit the landfill’s ridge on Granger Lane, leaving a 30-foot scar in the earth. The plane appears to have hit a tree as it skidded on its belly to a stop.
The first responding officer started emergency medical treatment, but the pilot died, Mullins said. Police alerted the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Jim Peters of the FAA said that his organization will investigate and that the NTSB will determine the cause of the crash.
FAA records indicate that the plane is an experimental aircraft made by the owners, Eckberg and Richard Marr of Winsted.
Roger Knapp, who lives in a condominium on Julie Road close to the crash site, said the plane was barely above treetop level as it came in for a landing seconds before the impact.
"I thought he was gonna hit the building. I knew it was real low and he was all over," Knapp said. Trees blocked his view of the crash, he said, but he heard it.
The town-owned airstrip is at 62 Johnson Ave.