Family and community members described a Michigan man who died in a Clark County plane crash as an experienced pilot who spent years building his own aircraft and was careful not to fly in bad weather.
Levon King, 81, and his wife Gloria King, 85, died Friday when their experimental aircraft crashed into a muddy cornfield in Harmony Twp.
>>MORE INFORMATION: Michigan couple die in Clark County plane crash
Relatives said the couple were flying to Michigan from Georgia when Levon King’s RV-9A aircraft went down as heavy rains and lightning rolled through the area. Authorities said Monday they are still collecting information and it’s not clear what role, if any, weather may have played.
“We’re waiting on a lot of information from air traffic control and the meteorologist so we don’t have a lot to give right now,” said Joshua Lindberg, an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.
The FAA lost radio and radar contact with the plane and contacted the Ohio State Highway Patrol at 10:51 a.m. Friday. A highway patrol helicopter was called in to locate the crash in a corn field about a half mile from Newlove Road and Ohio 41.
Jennifer Robinson and her husband were sitting on their porch on Old State Route 70 in Clark County when they heard what they thought was a crop duster. They were surprised because those planes typically don’t fly during a storm, she said.
They saw the plane go below a nearby tree line and heard a bang, but didn’t see the crash or any smoke.
“When we saw it it was going at a 45 degree angle down toward the ground,” Robinson said. “The cockpit was away from us. It didn’t spin or anything, it was just a straight dive down and then it hit.”
Levon King was a former mayor of Allen Park, Mich, and had also previously served as a city administrator in Southgate, Mich.
He was also a minister, attorney, and both he and Gloria King were active in the Allen Park Presbyterian Church, where he sang in a barbershop quartet and she sang in choirs. The couple met in church and Levon King was also a Ham radio enthusiast, his son Jonathan Preston King said.
Levon King was particularly proud of the small aircraft he built mostly in his garage, said Joseph Kuspa, Southgate’s mayor. As the plane outgrew the barn, he finished the rest of the project at a nearby airport he visited almost daily.
“He was not only a pilot for decades, he also wanted to build his own plane,” Kuspa said.
The couple were flying home from a high school reunion in Georgia, Jonathan King said.
Family members were shocked to hear about the crash because Levon King was careful to avoid flying in bad weather, his son said. It took Levon King about eight years to build the plane, Jonathan King said.
“He was very experienced and thorough,” Jonathan King said. “The plane had every modern convenience on it. The thing is, it was small and not very stable. I get the impression it was hard to fly.”
FAA records indicate Levon King was a private pilot, certified in December 2009, as well as a repairman and a builder of experimental aircraft, certified in August 2015. The plane was last inspected on April 27, 2015, according to records.
The plane’s maintenance records will be reviewed as part of the investigation, Lindberg said, and a preliminary report could be available as early as Friday.
Levon King stayed active in the community long after his retirement, friends said. Serving as mayor has often been a difficult job in Allen Park, a city of about 28,000. But Levon King left the city in a good position after serving from 1999 to 2003, said William Matakas, Allen Park’s current mayor
“The city prospered under his direction and I think those four years were good years,”Matakas said. “We went through a period where no mayor ever got a second term.”
He wasn’t a natural politician, his son said, but grew into the role.
“He wasn’t gregarious, although to be the mayor you have to be,” Jonathan King said. “He built some kind of charisma doing that.”
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