Pilot killed in crash at Washington airport

March 11, 2014
Emergency personnel carry a pilot on a stretcher after his small plane crashed over the bank of the runway at Washington County Airport Tuesday afternoon. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The pilot killed in Tuesday afternoon’s plane crash at Washington County Airport was a champion figure skater for his home country of Ukraine and had recently coached the 2011 Junior Worlds skating champion.

Igor Novodran, 52, of Upper St. Clair, was practicing touch-and-go landings in his 1998 Avid Bandit fixed-wing plane when it crashed near the runway on the eastern side of the airport shortly after 2 p.m.

Novodran crashed as he was banking left in his single-engine plane to line up with Runway 27.

Crews removed him from the wreckage, and he was flown by medical helicopter to UPMC-Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh, where he died at 3:35 p.m., according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office.

The front of the plane was destroyed and the cockpit badly damaged, South Franklin Assistant Fire Chief Mike Henderson said. He said the pilot suffered extensive internal injuries and numerous broken bones.

“He was banged up pretty bad,” Henderson said. “There’s nothing left intact in that plane.”

Pete Martin, a pilot whose Piper Cherokee aircraft is stored at the airport, said he watched the aircraft perform two touch-and-go landings, but he did not see the crash.

Flight records show Novodran purchased and registered the experimental ultralight plane last November. Airport Executive Director Scott Gray said the plane was stored in a hangar at Washington County Airport before the crash.

Novodran was a Ukrainian National Champion figure skater in his youth and had, in recent years, coached elite skaters in international competitions, including 2011 World Juniors champion Harry Mattick of Britain.

Kim Sailer, who coached along with Novodran at the Island Sports Center on Neville Island, said he moved to Western Pennsylvania about 20 years ago, but spent some time coaching overseas. She said he was in Europe as recently as last month coaching an elite skater there.

“He’s a good coach,” Sailer said before learning of Novodran’s death. “He works really hard. He tries to really inspire his skaters to do well.”

She said Novodran had been flying for about five years and recently sold another plane to purchase the ultralight aircraft involved in the crash.

Immediately following the crash, state police troopers secured the scene to preserve the site for Federal Aviation Administration investigators. FAA officials are investigating what happened to cause the aircraft to crash on the property.

The airport remained open after the crash because the scene was far enough away from the airstrip. However, the taxiway was closed for more than an hour to allow emergency responders and their vehicles access to the scene.

The last serious emergency at the airport occurred nearly three years ago when a plane made a forced landing in a field about a mile from the runway. The plane was heavily damaged in the May 12, 2011, crash, and the pilot suffered serious injuries.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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