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Pilot okay after crash of small plane at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport

CLEARWATER — A St. Petersburg man suffered minor injuries Thursday after his brand-new biplane crash landed just after takeoff at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

Michael Marrin, 59, had just taken off from Runway 9 at 8:05 a.m. when his Pitts single-engine, single-seat plane "rolled right, came to the ground, inverted and slid off the runway," said airport spokeswoman Michele Routh.

At his home Thursday afternoon, Marrin said he recently finished building the experimental aircraft from plans.

Marrin was treated for scrapes and released from Bayfront Medical Center after the accident, which is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Marrin said the plane was a total loss after the crash. He declined to go into details, but said he encountered unexpected flying characteristics immediately after takeoff.

Records show Marrin applied to register the plane with the FAA on May 17. It wasn't clear to FAA officials on Thursday afternoon if that registration had been fully processed. That's something the FAA will be checking, said FAA southern region spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

"It's all subject to the investigation. One of the things we investigate in any incident or accident involving an aircraft is proper registration," Bergen said.

The Pitts Special model is known for its ability to perform aerobatic maneuvers. Pitts aircraft won many international aerobatic flying competitions in the 1960s and '70s, said John Burton, president of Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, which hosts the annual air show at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

"Back in the day, that would be the premier competitive aircraft," said Burton. "It's designed to withstand more G-forces than, say, a Cessna 182, which is more of a station wagon, compared to the Pitts, which is more like a sports car."

Marrin won a "custom built" award for another aerobatic plane he built, a Skybolt, at the 2007 EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., a weeklong air show that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, said Dick Knapinski, a spokesman for Experimental Aircraft Association, which organizes the event.

"These are considered the top aircraft-building awards in the United States," Knapinski said. "To receive an outstanding workmanship award here is really quite an outstanding achievement."

No one else was injured in the crash Thursday, which closed the runway for about 10 minutes and had no effect on airport operations, Routh said.

Rita Farlow can be reached at (727) 445-4162 or at farlow@sptimes.com.

Pilot okay after crash of small plane at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport 06/12/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2008 11:52pm]
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