[Update: see below.]
According to Snopes, this photo is legit — it’s a Cherokee 180 N6487J that crashed into a tree during a forced approach near Meadowlake Airport in Colorado last month after the engine lost power (the pilot, who was the sole occupant, had no serious injuries).
The picture is circulating around the Internet because of the funny juxtaposition of a flight school sign and a small plane crashed into a tree behind it. However, American Aviation uses Cessnas as its primary trainers (and a Piper Arrow for complex training), and the PA-28-180 in the picture is registered to a real-estate company, so unless it was on a lease-back, it really has nothing to do with the flying school or flying lessons. Still, it is hard not to come up with funny captions …
I received an e-mail from Mark at Meadowlake Airport pointing me to the story on the airport’s web site. The story clears up a few points:
- The pilot was practicing night circuits (I’m surprised by that, since the crash happened at 5:30 pm, at a relatively southerly attitude, and official night doesn’t being until 30 minutes after sunset).
- The plane was a rental, but not from American Aviation (it just happened to crash into a tree near their entrance).
- The pilot suffered no injuries at all in the crash, but was slightly hurt climbing down from the tree.
- The plane hit power lines (visible in the picture) first during an attempt to glide to the runway, then ended up in the tree.
The tree probably did a good job dissipating the plane’s energy and saving the pilot. If it was already dark (say, because the sun had gone behind mountains), the power lines would have been awfully hard to see.