Columbia Owens Field airport manager speaks out after Thursday’s plane crash

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When Chris Eversmann got the call about a plane crash Thursday at a small Columbia airport, he was in a training session with Richland County’s emergency management division, he said.

Eversmann is the general manager of the Jim Hamilton - L.B. Owens Airport, often called Owens Field. He works for the county which owns the airport.

After the crash, Eversmann praised the response of the airport employees and emergency responders. The response was immediate and terrific, he said. Eagle Aviation is the company that’s contracted to staff and operate the airport day-to-day while the county owns and oversees it. Eagle Aviation employees were the ones who first responded to the crash and began helping the pilot and clearing the runway. Columbia police and firefighters arrived within minutes of the call about the crash.

Like other investigators, Eversmann wouldn’t identify the pilot but confirmed he had at least lower body injuries and was taken to the hospital.

Eversmann also confirmed many of the details already reported by The State on the crash. The pilot was flying a motored glider, which, in aviation terms, “soars,” meaning it doesn’t use an engine to stay in the air. The pilot crashed while landing and the plane was mostly intact after the wreck. The Federal Aviation Administration has begun an investigation into the wreck.

Motor gliders are popular with pilots, Eversmann said.

The Thursday crash was the second this year for a plane coming into Owens Field airport. In January, a pilot was flying nearing the airport on a foggy morning when he missed his approach and crashed into a home in the Rosewood neighborhood. The plane burst into flames in the backyard. Farhad Rostampour, 62, of Greenville, was the pilot and died in the crash.

Eversmann said he didn’t want people to think Owens Field airport was unsafe.

“We’ve gone for long stretches with absolutely no crashes,” he said. “We’re hopeful that things calm back down.”