Pilot blames Lynden biplane crash on bright sunset, firefighters say

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 17, 2013 

LYNDEN PLANE CRASH

A plane lies crumpled along Depot Road after it overshot the runway on Thursday, May 16, 2013, at a small airfield in Lynden. The pilot, who was the only person in the plane, walked away from the crash, but was taken to the hospital, according to KGMI. The extent of his injuries was unknown late Thursday evening.

ALEX ROBERTS — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

LYNDEN - A biplane pilot from Bellingham crashed near the Lynden airport late Thursday, May 16, but crawled from the wreck nearly unscathed.

Vern Swanson tried to land his yellow kit-built R-80 Tiger Moth, with "Buddercup" printed on the tail, from the east side of the Lynden airport at 8:30 p.m. But the plane clipped a row of trees on the east side of Depot Road, a street perpendicular to the airstrip. The plane spun in the air 180 degrees before crashing into a tall hedge on the other side of the street, said Lynden Assistant Fire Chief Robert Spinner.

Swanson jumped out of the plane before firefighters arrived. He didn't have any serious injuries, but the pilot was "shaken up," Spinner said.

Swanson was treated at St. Joseph hospital, then released, according to a spokeswoman.

The cause of the crash remained under investigation Friday. The pilot, however, told people at the scene that the bright setting sun blocked his view of the runway, according to Spinner. (The sun set 10 minutes later, according to the National Weather Service.)

Efforts by The Bellingham Herald to reach Swanson by phone weren't successful.

An official narrative from the National Transportation Safety Board should be pieced together early next week, said Josh Cawthra, an aviation crash investigator.

The amateur-built airplane was certified airworthy in October 2007. It was moved to a hanger after investigators inspected the wreckage Friday morning.

Reach Caleb Hutton at caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2276. Read his Dispatcher blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher or get updates on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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