A combination of gusty winds and an 87-year-old flight instructor’s inability to maintain control of his aircraft may have precipitated a fatal small-plane crash that killed the pilot and severely injured his student, according to federal investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on the June 2 crash of a Cessna 150 into a stand of trees adjacent to Banning Municipal Airport, pointing to weather and handling errors as possible factors.

Stanley Clebeck, 87, of Patton died in the crash, while the student pilot flying with him suffered major injuries from which he’s still recovering.

According to the NTSB, the two-seat C-150 trainer belonged to Aerotech Academy, a flight school based at Redlands Municipal Airport, where Clebeck was an instructor. Federal Aviation Administration records show that in addition to holding a valid flight instructor’s certificate, he also held an airline transport pilot’s license and had passed a flight physical in January.

Clebeck and the student pilot — whose identity was not released — left Redlands about 10:45 a.m. and eventually steered toward Banning, where they intended to execute a touch-and-go landing on Runway 26, the report stated.

About 11:30 a.m., with the student at the controls, the single-engine Cessna entered the pattern at Banning, lining up for the touch-and-go without incident. According to investigators, winds ranged from 19 to 25 mph, blowing from the east, or behind the airplane.

“The student pilot reported that the landing was hard, and the wind was gusting,” the NTSB said. “However, they continued the touch-and-go. The student pilot reported that after takeoff, the airplane drifted right of runway centerline and (Clebeck) took control of the airplane. The student’s last memories of the event were impacting trees along the freeway.”

A witness told investigators that he observed the plane climb to about 100 feet after the touch-and-go, then it began to settle back toward the ground.

“He stated that … the wings wobbled, and the airplane subsequently impacted trees and terrain near railroad tracks on the northwest side of the airport,” according to the report.

The Cessna came to rest on its left side, along Hargrave Street, adjacent to an eastbound on-ramp to Interstate 10. No one on the ground was hurt, and there was no post-impact fire, though both of the aircraft’s wings and its fuselage were substantially damaged.

Clebeck and the student pilot were pulled from the wreckage by Riverside County firefighters.

Clebeck was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where he succumbed to his injuries four days later.

–City News Service

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