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Mon, Apr 10, 2006

Accidental Lakeland LSA Flight Ends In Embarassment, No Injuries

Inadvertant Engine Start Sends Plane Across Walkway

It could have been much worse... but fortunately, the only victims of an inadvertant engine start that sent a Dova Skylark careening across a pedestrian walkway Saturday evening at the Sun 'N Fun Fly-In were the plane itself, two ground vehicles, and the nerves of many who witnessed the accident.

The Skylark (file photo of type, above) -- a two-seat, low-wing, T-tailed light sport aircraft manufactured through a joint European-Canadian venture -- clipped a parked car with several kids inside as it crossed Sun 'N Fun Drive, a pedestrian and vehicle throughfare on the south end of the airshow field.

The car suffered minor damage, but the children inside were not injured -- nor was anyone else, thankfully, in the afterhours melee.

A Toyota pickup traveling down the road didn't fare as well, however. The aircraft collided with the truck before it came to rest against a fence bordering the campground -- with one of the Skylark's wings hanging over the waylaid pickup.

So, how did it happen? Lakeland Police Department spokesman Jack Gillen told the Lakeland Ledger that fly-in attendees may have fiddled with some of the Skylark's controls throughout the day, as they sat inside the aircraft on display at the Sportplanes.com tent.

Gillen told the Ledger just before 6 pm Saturday night, airplane representative Eric Dellenbach flipped the Skylark's ignition switch to check the fuel level. Instead, the engine started up and "went full throttle," overpowering the plane's tie-downs.

Dellenbach, who was in the passenger seat of the Skylark at the time, tried to stop the airplane -- but only the pilot's side rudder pedals are equipped with toe brakes, so he was unable to stop the aircraft before it went across the field.

The Skylark, valued at $75,000 (before the accident), is a total loss.

FMI: www.dovaaircraft.ca (Out Of Order at press time)

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