Pilot solos two weeks before fatal crash - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Pilot solos two weeks before fatal crash

CHEROKEE COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

The East Texas woman who died in a plane crash over the weekend had her first solo flight in November.

Debra Birch of Jacksonville was killed when the plane she was flying crashed into a hangar at the Cherokee County Airport on Sunday.

Debra Birch was practicing touch-and-go landings when it happened. Authorities say the plane she shared with her husband took a nosedive into a hanger roof around 4:30.

The plane's engine and propeller are still in the building, but the rest of the plane had to be lowered to the ground so the emergency locator transmitter could be turned off.

"They basically used a rope to lower it down off the top of the hangar. When the airplane hit the hangar it broke in half. The airplane is what they consider a light sport aircraft so I think it only weighs around 700 pounds." said Cherokee County Airport manager Clint Goff.

Birch was a student pilot.

"This was the day of her solo which was on the 7th of November," Goff revealed, looking at a picture of Birch.

She is holding her shirt tail which was cut from the back of her shirt after her first solo flight. Before radios, the pilot would tug on the trainee's shirt tail to get his attention, so after the solo flight the new pilot would no longer need a shirt tail.

Her husband, Richard Birch, is also a pilot.

"It's so hard for everybody in our aviation community when you have such a tragic event like this, and we'll all miss Debra. She was a big part of our community," Clint revealed.

Officials say it could be months before they can determine the cause of the crash.


Related story: ETX woman dies in weekend plane crash

 

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