Small plane flips behind P-3 on Navy runway

Two men in a single-engine Cessna learned a tough lesson about tailgating on Sunday evening.

The student pilot and an instructor from Whidbey Island Navy Flying Club were on a taxiway on Whidbey Island Naval Air Station at approximately 6 p.m. when they stopped too closely behind a P3 Orion aircraft. When the P3 started up its four prop engines, creating a wind tunnel, the Cessna 152 flipped like a paper airplane, landing upside-down.

The Navy airfield and the flying club both use naval air station taxiways and runways through a joint-use agreement. There have been no similar accidents in recent years.

The student pilot, an active-duty Navy airman, and the instructor, a civilian contractor, both “walked away” from the scene, a Navy spokeswoman said. They were taken to Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, where the two men were reportedly treated and released. Kim Martin, base public affairs officer, declined to identify the two men, citing their wish to remain unidentified.

The crew of the P3 began to conduct a routine high power engine run, Martin said, which means that the engines were revved up high in order to perform a check of the propellers. There was no damage to the P3, but the Cessna, which could weigh only about 1,300 pounds with fuel and occupants, suffered “significant damage,” Martin said.

The Cessna is either owned or leased by the flying club.

Naval air station officials are investigating the incident.

“The Navy is looking into the cause of the accident, so we can prevent anything like this from happening again,” Martin said.

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