Plane stalled in wind gust before Wednesday crash, witness says

jkovac@macon.comFebruary 20, 2014 

A single-engine plane with a flight instructor and student pilot aboard when it crashed Wednesday appeared to stall in a wind gust before it nosedived into the ground.

A man who apparently saw the plane doing touch-and-go landings, a common training maneuver, said the wreck happened during one of the plane’s takeoffs at the Macon Downtown Airport, a Bibb County sheriff’s incident report said.

The witness, Steve McGowan, a pilot himself who works at the airport, knows the instructor who was hurt in the wreck, Dr. Guy Foulkes, of Macon.

Foulkes, 55, a hand specialist, and student pilot Kelly Hague, 49, a nurse anesthetist, were seriously injured and, according to authorities, in “stable” condition at a Macon hospital Thursday.

The cause of the crash was under investigation. The canary-yellow Piper Cub, built in 1946, belonged to Foulkes.

“This man was a highly educated, learned pilot. Highly respected,” McGowan said. “I’ve flown with him many times. I trust him.”

McGowan, who referred to the plane as “Yellow Bird,” declined to go into specifics of what he saw Wednesday when the aircraft went down.

“This was simply weather-induced,” he said. “He was extremely professional, as with his surgery techniques. The man knows what he was doing. ... A very safety-conscious person.”

McGowan said that because the airport sits on a plateau 100 feet or so above Interstate 16, wind sweeps in from the west and the lowlands along the Ocmulgee River and, “like waves on the ocean, it will catch something and roll it over.”

Foulkes, who practices at OrthoGeorgia, notes in his bio that he is an airline transport pilot, rated to fly single- and multi-engine planes.

“He did everything safely,” McGowan said.

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