FAA rules plane mishap at Great Barrington airport an accident

A plane sits in a field after sliding off the runway at Walter J. Koladza Airport on Feb. 4.

GREAT BARRINGTON — A mishap in which a plane left the runway and rolled into a snowy ditch earlier this month has been ruled an accident by the Federal Aviation Administration.

That ruling automatically triggers an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into the incident, according to FAA spokesman James Peters.

The pilot was taxiing in preparation for takeoff about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 4 during snow flurries when the plane left the western end of the runway at Walter J. Koladza Airport. Neither the pilot nor his passenger were injured.

The pair had been on their way back to New York City after a day of skiing at Catamount Ski Area.

Mark Roggen, a pilot and the airport's business manager, said the pilot simply "did not pay attention to where he was going." He did not speculate about the reason or whether braking problems on what may have been a slippery runway contributed.

An FAA investigator was at the scene the following day.

Roggen said the Cessna 303 sustained damage to a propeller and was recovered from a neighbor's property without incident.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway told The Eagle that "substantial damage" to an aircraft can constitute an accident ruling versus an "incident" ruling by the FAA.

"If it was scratch, and there were no fatalities, like a fender bender, it doesn't [reach] the level of an NTSB investigation," Holloway said.

A report is forthcoming, Holloway said, but it may take another week while the NTSB waits for the FAA investigator's report.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter at @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.