EAGLESWOOD – New Jersey State Police confirmed that a small plane went down at 11 p.m. Monday, June 12th just outside the Eagles Nest Airport in a wooded area of Eagleswood Township.
The male pilot suffered minor injuries, but was not taken to the hospital. State Troopers from the Tuckerton Station were part of the emergency personnel that responded, along with Berkeley Township Hazmat and other local EMS and fire departments.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are now investigating the cause of the crash, which comes just a month after out-of-town pilot Kenneth R. Miess refueled his vintage 1947 plane at the same airport, and then was forced to make an emergency landing among the trees after seeing smoke in the plane’s cockpit.
Airport neighbor Caroline Marucci was home during that crash, and remembers the loud crash, overwhelming fuel smell and pilot knocking on her door for help. She said the airport has expanded since they built their home there in 2003, and what was once little more than a dirt runway has now become a crash zone.
“Had he maintained altitude he would have literally hit the bedroom where I was sleeping. We are in a dangerous situation here with this airport,” she said of the May 16 crash.
According to the Eagles Nest Airport’s website, a 1,600-foot taxiway and run up pad was recently added, and another 1,000-foot taxiway was said to be built on the east end of a runway this spring. Many enhancements have been made over the last five years, including new hangars, runway lights and a beacon. The airport currently employs 70 people.
But even before the two crashes, the airport has had a proposal in play with the Department of State to designate itself as a transportation node under the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA), whose regulations currently prohibit any future expansion. The proposal argues that the Eagles Nest Airport helps support both the community and local businesses – even during times of crisis like Superstorm Sandy – and provides indirect economic support amounting to 17 million dollars annually to Eagleswood and surrounding areas. Its facilities are also used for emergency and training purposes by several government entities.
Eagles Nest Airport owner Peter Weidhorn said the airport does not have any current plans to expand.
“It’s not about expansion of the airport, it’s about the CAFRA issues,” he said, adding that current regulations make it difficult for him to perform simple maintenance like re-paving or adding new run up pads. He said it’s merely a matter of clean up between several state agencies – the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection and the State Planning Commission.
“It benefits the town locally because the property that’s part of this node includes the town property as well as the other commercial spaces alongside the airport,” said Weidhorn.
A public hearing is scheduled for June 28 at the Eagleswood Township Municipal Building for residents to voice their comments and concerns on the creation of the transportation node.