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Medical plane crashes at N.C. airport

Pilot and physician injured in UNC Health plane crash at Raleigh-Durham International Airport

By Richard Stradling
The News & Observer

RALEIGH, N.C. — A small plane crashed near a runway at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Wednesday morning, resulting in a halt of all flights in and out.

The single-engine plane belongs to Medical Air Inc. and was used by UNC Air Operations. The plane arrived at RDU from Wilmington International Airport shortly after 10 a.m., according to

The plane was carrying two people — the pilot and Paul Chelminski, an internal medicine physician with UNC Health. Chelminski was returning from Wilmington, where he gave a lecture to the staff at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center, according to UNC Health .

Chelminski was taken to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and is in good condition, according to UNC Health. The UNC Air pilot, whose name has not been released, was taken to Duke University Hospital in Durham. His condition was not available.

The badly damaged plane was seen lying in the grass near the airport’s secondary runway, 5R-23L, on the east side of the passenger terminals. The airfield was closed for an hour and a half as emergency crews responded.

About two dozen incoming flights were diverted to other airports, while others were held before taking off. All outgoing flights were on hold as well.

RDU officials urged people to check with their airlines for the status of their flights.

RDU’s main runway reopened about 11:30 a.m. Delays were likely to cascade throughout the day, however, while airlines waited for planes to arrive before being able to board passengers again. Both passenger terminals remained open.

There was no information about what caused the accident. The pilot did not report a problem to the airport or the Federal Aviation Administration before landing, said Michael Landguth, RDU’s president and CEO.

Landguth said investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were expected to arrive Wednesday afternoon.

It’s standard protocol to close the entire airfield when there’s a crash or accident, to make sure emergency responders are free to move about, Landguth said.

“Our primary focus when that accident occurred were the two people sitting in that aircraft,” he said. “Our primary mission is to make sure we can get to them and try to rescue them and try to make sure we can get them to a safe condition as fast as we possibly can.”

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