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Student pilot escapes injury after practice landing ends in plane crash at Albert Whitted Airport

ST. PETERSBURG — A student pilot escaped injury Wednesday morning when his small plane crashed while attempting a landing at Albert Whitted Airport, according to St. Petersburg police.

The male pilot was practicing landings and takeoffs, according to police, when he crashed in front of the airport tower while attempting a landing around 11:20 a.m.

The pilot was alone on the plane and was not injured, fire officials said. "Pilot error" led to the crash, according to St. Petersburg police, but the agency declined to identify the pilot.

The plane was a Cessna 172 that ran off the side of Runway 7 and struck a fence after landing, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

She said the FAA is investigating the crash to determine whether any regulations were violated, although that process could take months. The National Transportation Safety Board will determine what led to the crash, Bergen said.

Fire officials said the crash damaged the plane's landing gear and caused a minor fuel leak.

Airport manager Richard Lesniak said the student pilot was taking lessons with St. Pete Air. Company officials declined to return calls for comment.

The fixed wing single-engine plane, which was manufactured in 2005, is registered to VL Aviation LLC in Snell Isle.