Pilot Of Experimental Plane Fell Out And Hit The Tail In 2022 Crash That Killed 2, Investigators Say

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) — The pilot of an experimental aircraft fell out of the plane and hit the tail, causing the plane to crash in northeastern Pennsylvania in 2022, killing him and a pilot-rated passenger, according to federal investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the “experimental amateur-built” Bearhawk Patrol airplane crashed at a farm near Hanover Township in October 2022. The Luzerne County coroner’s office identified the two victims as Michael Bowen, 59, of Jonestown; and Ronald Snyder 76, of Bernville.

The probable cause of the accident was the pilot unlatching his seatbelt during flight — possibly to examine some rigging he mentioned having a problem with earlier, investigators said in their final report last week. Being unbuckled allowed him to be thrown from the aircraft and hit the tail, sending the plane out of control and beyond the pilot-rated passenger’s ability to recover.

The pilot was seen buckling his seatbelt and shoulder harness before flight, but both were found intact and unlatched after the crash, suggesting he intentionally unbuckled, investigators found.

The plane was headed from Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport to Lebanon County and was only in the air for a few minutes after climbing to 1,700 feet. Authorities in Luzerne County said the plane went down shortly after 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29 about 100 feet from where children were on a hayride at Dorian’s Farm. No one on the ground was injured.