By Dave Hirschman
A Wisconsin man this month became the first U.S. pilot jailed for a domestic aircraft accident after pleading guilty to negligent operation of a motor vehicle and disorderly conduct following a 2004 crash that claimed the life of his passenger.
Mark Strub, 45, was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 60 days of work release, and 1,000 hours of community service plus fines, court costs, and counseling fees.
Strub, a private pilot, was giving rides in an open-cockpit biplane at Alexander Field, South Wood County Airport. It has been widely reported that Strub was giving rides at the Children’s Miracle Network Balloon Rally; however, in court filings in a pending civil suit, Strub said that he was not part of the charity event. He was simply giving rides to people at the airport who approached him and requested a flight.
Kimberly Reed of Eau Claire, Mich., was his fourth passenger of the morning. Strub performed a series of aerobatic maneuvers and then followed the Wisconsin River at an altitude of about 50 feet agl when his airplane struck power lines. The Boeing A75 (Stearman) came to rest inverted in the river in about four feet of water.
Reed died in the crash, and Strub sustained minor injuries.
Strub told the NTSB that he had flown over the Wisconsin River many times but misjudged his location on the day of the accident. The weather was clear, and the plane had no mechanical problems at the time of the accident, according to the NTSB report.
Updated February 26, 2008