Pilot, 83, found dead after crashing in his homemade plane
A hobbyist pilot known for flying a homemade aircraft was found dead in a Michigan forest after a four day-long search.
Richard Martin, an 82-year-old plane enthusiast from Dowagiac, Michigan was killed after going missing on a flight in his Sonex aircraft.
Martin took off in his homemade aircraft around 11.00am on Sunday, September 10.
A manager at the Dowagiac Municipal Airport told police investigators Martin regularly flew his plane for about 1-2 hours on Sunday mornings.
A family member waited for Martin to return from his flight, but was left waiting for hours when he failed to land. The airport finally called police to help search for Martin around 8.13pm that evening.
The plane Martin was flying was from Sonex, company that sells kits for hobbyists to build their own fixed-wing aircraft. The parts for Martin’s aircraft are sold on the company’s website for about $20,000 in total.
‘He built the aircraft himself, it’s considered an experimental craft,’ an airport manager told WSBT. ‘It’s very well built, very well maintained. He was a very meticulous person.’
Federal Aviation Administration records show that Martin first built his Sonex in 2005. It was most recently certified in 2018, which was set to expire in 2028.
However, the search effort saw few results over the next week. Martin reportedly had no modern GPS tracking functionality in the homebuilt craft, aside from an iPad that he brought with him.
Around 3.52pm on Thursday, Martin’s downed plane was spotted in a wooded area near Michigan Route 51 by a Michigan State Police helicopter, about 2 miles north of the airport.
First responders rushed to the crash site, where they confirmed it was his plane by the tail identification number. Martin was also found dead at the crash site.
‘At this time Investigators are continuing the investigation into what caused Mr. Martin’s plane to crash,’ the Dowagiac Police Department said.
Martin’s cause of death has not yet been determined.
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