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FEDS SAY PILOT ERROR CAUSED CAS CRASH

A federal report made public Monday said pilot error caused a 1992 crash near Springfield, Mo., of two UND airplanes piloted by students of the Center for Aerospace Sciences.

Two of four UND planes flying in a rough diamond formation collided April 23, 1992, while en route to a flying competition in Monroe, La.

According to the Associated Press, a National Transportation Safety Board report made public Monday for the first time said the pilot on the left side made "inadequate" decisions and planning when he clipped the landing gear of the lead craft.

Both planes, two-passenger Cessna 152s, were seriously damaged in the collision and totally destroyed in separate ground crashes.

Terry Richard Irgens, a native of Myersville, Md., was piloting the plane on the left side. Irgens and the two passengers involved suffered only minor injuries.

David Prudhomme, East Grand Forks was piloting the lead plane; he was seriously injured in the crash and spent nine days in a Springfield hospital. Adam Nucho was his passenger and sustained minor injuries.

According to the AP, the NTSB laid most of the blame on Irgens, but also said Prudhomme "did not maintain a proper lookout and had a lack of experience in flying formations."

CAS officials had not yet seen the report and had no comment, spokesman Tim Burke said Monday night.

In reports after the crash, CAS Dean John Odegard said both pilots "kept their wits, didn't panic and regained control of the aircraft as best they could, which saved their lives."

Prudhomme said this is the first indication he has had that the report faulted him for any part of the accident. "I think I was doing everything a reasonably competent pilot would do," he said Monday.

Although formation flying was not part of the training at CAS, it was routine to fly to competitions while in loose formation and was not difficult to do normally, Prudhomme said. However, that practice has been discontinued by UND flying teams, he said.

Prudhomme graduated a month after the crash with a bachelor's degree in aerospace science and works as a research teaching assistant in CAS's distance learning program. His injury caused the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend his commercial pilot certification for medical reasons and he is awaiting its return, he said. Despite the interruption in piloting, he plans on a career as a commercial pilot.

Matthew Amundson, St. Louis Park, Minn., was the passenger in Irgens plane and also was treated and released after the accident.

Irgens was hired as a pilot about three weeks ago by Great Lakes Airlines, providing service for United Express, according to family members and a United Express employee.

Grand Forks Herald, August 10, 1993