Fatal Aviation Accident: A pilot was killed Monday when he was struck in the head by a propeller of a stalled plane at Gillespie Field in El Cajon.
• A pilot whose small plane stalled got out and tried to hand-crank the propeller to start it up again.
• When the engine did start, one of the blades struck the pilot in the head.
• The pilot was rushed to a hospital, where he died.
The accident occurred shortly after 8:30 a.m., according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Monica Zech, spokeswoman for the city of El Cajon, said the pilot — later identified as 41-year-old Gordon Woodard of Lakeside — was in a blue and white , single-engine, four-seat, 1974 Piper Cherokee PA-28R-200. One other person was aboard.
Zech said the plane taxied out of a hangar at the west end of the airport and then apparently stalled. Woodard got out of the plane, tried to restart it by manually cranking the propeller, and was hit in the head by the blade.
American Aviation Academy owner Tom Hannawa told Channel 10 News one one his flight instructors witnessed the accident.
“My flight instructor saw an individual grab the blade with both hands and initiated a motion downward,” Hannawa said. “When he did that, the engine apparently caught and the rising propeller coming up struck the individual on the top of the head.”
Woodard suffered a severe head injury. He was rushed to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, where he was pronounced dead.
The Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration were called to the scene to investigate the accident.
“Hot propping” — starting the engine manually — is not against federal regulations, but Hannawa told NBC News it is generally considered very dangerous. His flight school prohibits it.
“We have a policy: No touching of the propeller to start, no hand-propping to start the engine,” Hannawa said. He added that both his flight instructor and a student who witnessed the accident were extremely upset by it.
“They were very traumatized,” Hannawa said. “We’re going to let them have as much time as they need to recover because it was a very traumatic experience for them.”
Gillespie Field is operated by the San Diego County Department of Public Works.
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